The Talking Darkness #writephoto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the land cracked…

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

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

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

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

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

River of Sun logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

Chapter Eighteen – Rider on the Dawn

Chapter Nineteen – The Return of the Silence

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————————————–

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

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

River of Sun logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She stopped time…

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

Chapter Eighteen – Rider on the Dawn

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————————————–

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

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

River of Sun logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Majesty?”

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

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

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

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

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

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————————————–

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

Ben’s Bit, part 15 – Bolero

Ben's shirt montage6AA

Ben’s Bit, part 15 – Bolero

At first, I think it’s a memory of a dream – of that night when knowledge of the unknown Miss Goodnight, soon to be Golding, came into my life. The heels on the concrete corridor this time are tapping a slower rhythm. It passes my cell door, rendering me fully awake, then diminishes as she walks further along the corridor. There is a missed beat as something happens, and I can hear a scratching noise as though one of the shoes is being reinstated; then nothing but the silence of agonised thinking as a direction changes in the dim light out there in one of the darkest of Bakewell Gaol’s old corridors…

And then the heels are coming back… This time they stop and linger at my door. I am, by now, fully awake, and I rise from my bed and slip on my dull, grey, prisoner’s overall and stand facing the door.

When the door opens without the sound of the old key turning, I have to check that I am actually awake and not in a dream. I suspect it has not been locked since Roger Sylvester brought me the tea, in a kindly gesture that left me wrecked for hours afterwards, but something has blocked me from trying it… as though it would be a betrayal of Roger’s obvious trust in me…

But, now, it is not Roger who stands before me. Miss Golding, in all her slightly inebriated beauty, clicks into the cell, carrying a bottle of red wine, two plastic glasses and a carrier bag from Marks and Spencer.

“Tell me to sod off, if you like,” she says, simply, opening her eyes wide to punctuate the question. Just at that moment, she looks a lot more vulnerable than I feel, which, in itself, is considerable…

“Why would I do that?” I ask her, stepping aside and indicating that, heels notwithstanding, the wine would be safer on my small table. “It’s not like I get a surfeit of visitors.”

She’s more sad than drunk, though a degree of alcohol has played its part in her being here.

“Told him to take a hike,” she says, sitting down on the bed. “Told him to take his twisted mind and lacklustre body and stuff it…”

Whatever it is, it has begun. The wings of this and not-this are beating over my head, A world is being separated, polarised.

“Some wine?” I ask, delighted to be re-acquainted with my second favourite indulgence. Fortunately, the bottle is a screw-top and, seconds later, the gentle and familiar sound of pouring wine brings delight into the dank air of the cell. As she pours, the smell of her perfume fills the air and I realise how much you can miss something…

“Don’t worry,” she says, chinking the plastic glasses which produce a dull tap, but it suffices. “He’s gone – flounced off in a rage… typical!”

I sip some of my wine. “I assume we’re speaking of Dr Grey?”

“Yes,” she replies in a little girl voice, then takes a deep breath and pulls herself back to adulthood. “The renowned Dr Grey…” she draws out the word ‘renowned’“. “Who screws his lively assistant any time he can get the the keys to the interview room…”

It’s an admission that doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is that she’s here in my cell, and we’re drinking red wine…

“And they’ve all set it up so carefully,” she glugs some more red. “and they didn’t think there’d be any cracks…”

I almost daren’t ask. “And it all centres on me?” I ask, incredulous.

“You just happened to be here at the right… sorry wrong time,” she says putting her free hand out and stroking my thigh. “I realise that this is not a game for you, no matter that those bastards think…”

Those bastards?” I ask quietly, refilling her glass, and wondering about the all-important plural.

“Don’t ask,” she says, having some more red. “More than my life’s worth – I’d never work again… not in this field anyway.”

Knowing a lot more than I did, I leave revelation to take its own course. Another half bottle of pleasant small talk and she gets to her feet, less steadily this time, and beckons me to follow.

We stand facing each other. It’s a seminal moment…

“Take the overall off,” she says. She’s a woman who knows what she wants. It’s refreshing… especially as I appear to be it.

Smiling like it’s Christmas, I pull down the zip on the hated garment and step out of it, revealing my rather average body and a pair of standard issue white boxers. She looks at the pale, winter skin and smiles, then takes a new shirt out of the Marks and Spencer bag.

Presuming nothing, and somewhat confused, I reach for my wine and sip it while I watch her fingers expertly dispense with the packaging. She shakes out the shirt, “Sorry about the creases.” Then she pulls my arms up and slides the pleasant blue shirt onto my torso. Soon she is doing up the front buttons, leaving the cuffs to flap.

Finished, she stands back and drinks some of her wine, while she surveys my new outer layer.

“Nice,” she says  simply. “Sorry about the creases…” With that, she puts down her plastic glass and slides her body into mine. Her precise nails slide up my back, making her intentions very clear as our midsections dance.

“Just wanted to see you in something beautiful before I undressed you…” Miss Goodnight says, with tears in her eyes.

But they are tears which do not diminish her ardour…

<See index below for other parts of this story>

———————————————————–< to be continued-

Ben’s Bit is a continuing first-person narrative of the character created by Stuart France and Sue Vincent, which may bear some relation to the author of this story, Steve Tanham, their fellow director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness.  In the latest of their books, Scions of Albion, Ben is arrested for his overly enthusiastic part in a mad escapade, and the other two are nowhere to be seen . . .  For more, enjoy their Doomsday series of books, and the new series (Lands of Exile) beginning soon. Click here for details.

Index to Ben’s Bits:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen,

Sue Vincent describes her and Stuart’s perspective on Ben’s imprisonment: Part One, Part Two

The Doomsday Series of books by Stuart France and Sue Vincent

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness – a modern mystery school.

Silent Eye modern masterAA

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 54 – The Tower of the Red Figures

 

Monument red men flatAA

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 54 – The Tower of the Red Figures

.Alexandra.

There was a coffee, a rucksack and a small, red, paper person waiting for me when I arrived at Rose’s Cafe that last Monday morning.

But no uncle John…

The coffee was hot, so I knew he had been there. Besides, I could ‘feel’ his presence, even though he was nowhere to be seen.

My sense of unease grew when I unzipped the black bag – the one he had often brought with him to our coffee meetings. Inside was an envelope with ‘Alexandra’ written on the front. I sipped some of the hot coffee before sliding my well-manicured thumbnail under the upper edge and slicing it open.

Inside were a standard-class rail ticket to London, a note and a picture of a place I knew well… Its golden dome a familiar landmark of the area in which our legal chambers were situated.

I picked up the red paper person, which was a crude figure, like a child’s cutout. For a second, I thought it had fallen apart in my hands. But the three paper people, linked hand in hand, opened, concertina-style; the lowest touching the table with its bouncing arm.

For the next few minutes, I sipped my coffee, thinking loudly. Was he sending me on a treasure hunt? I was, as usual, bound for London, anyway. Had he gone on ahead? Was our final coffee talk to be carried out in a different landscape to the native north?

An hour later, I was speeding south on the Virgin Intercity, set to stop only at Preston, Warrington and then on to London’s Euston station. I had used his ticket, even though I already had one for the first-class compartment adjacent. I had only done that because I thought it might be a test and he might have boarded the train, unseen, at the same time.  My seat had, at least, been reserved… He had been very thorough in his planning. I noted that, my legal mind working overtime to extract the deepest meaning from this strange experience.

I opened John’s black rucksack, again, and examined the note. ‘The cattle were red,‘ It said. ‘You can make the connections with ease.’ I looked at the three red paper people, spread out before me next to my bacon bun, bought from the trolley as it passed, a poor substitute for the full breakfast being served in First. Beneath the reference to the Labour were the words, ‘Like Heracles, seek the blazing Sun.’

In his final Labour, corresponding to the astrological sign of Pisces, Heracles faces a task from which he may not profit. There is no payment due for his rescue of the Red Cattle, ‘imprisoned’ on an island under the control of the three-bodied Geryon, his double-headed dog, and a mysterious shepherd who has looked after the red cattle for time immemorial. I knew that much, but what to make of the clues John had left me?

I was no wiser when the train arrived at Euston some two hours later – My legal team knew not to expect me before midday on a Monday; I put in the extra hours during the week, no-one doubted that. I had a short time to make some sense of it all. Within minutes, I was speeding in a red underground train beneath the streets of the City and towards Monument – the tube station with the same name as the tower on the mysterious picture. Minutes later, I emerged into the unexpectedly bright sunshine and looked up at my destination. The tower, arrowing into the clear sky, had been built in the seventeenth century to commemorate the Great Fire of London, and was designed by Christopher Wren. It is capped by a blazing gold sculpture symbolising the Great Fire, itself.

There are three hundred and eleven steps to get to the golden viewing platform which forms the base of the massive sculpture. I am a fit person, but each circuit of that spiral was increasingly painful – in heels. On the third, I stopped, mouth open. A larger scale red paper man was fastened to the wall of the ascending stairwell. There was no other sign. I stopped and stared at it, happy to have any excuse to rest my feet and get my breath back. He had been here–and obviously just ahead of me…

Best spiral stairs+Red1 manAA

After three further circuits of the spiral, I encountered another paper man on the stairway wall; but this one was black. Again, there was no other reference to my increasingly lonely quest.

The final figure came, as expected, on the ninth circuit, but this time the paper man was white. Red, black, white. The sequence triggered a distant memory of a conversation John and I had about the time we were beginning to talk about the esoteric. Now, I remembered that he had said that, from an ancient British perspective,  the generic colours of the Goddess were red, black and white… Was I ascending, with much effort, through these colours? Would John be waiting for me at the top?

My heart was hammering in my chest, but I pushed on, clicking in a much slower rhythm on the old stone spiral. With my head hanging on my gasping chest, I staggered onto the viewing platform and looked, anxiously, around.  I had to suppress a small sob when I found I was alone. The golden light, reflected from the massive, burning sculpture above me, was intense…but, slumped against the safety rail and gazing down the sixty metre drop to see the masses of people below, I knew nothing…

The revelations started when I began to descend. Passing the white paper man, I suddenly realised that the two-headed dog was a reference to the above and the below, and that Herakles had moved – had graduated – in the certainty of his own light to a being whose home was the above, the causal layer of all Being. He had therefore ‘slain’ the lower, seeing it for the resultant, if useful, shadow it was.

When I reached the black paper man, I became aware that the Shepherd in the story – the one guarding the red cattle – had been spared by the hero because he represented the one who looked after the the cattle; in human terms, the mind of man, woven, in a seemingly inextricable pattern, into the fibres of his being. Of course he had been spared – he was the way forward, once unity of being was established.

Crossing the final threshold of the red paper man, I realised with a smile that I was about to re-enter the world of the red cattle, that the three bodies represented our old friends the instinctive man, the emotional man and the intellectual man – all at odds with each other until the single arrow of redemptive purpose bore through them, as Heracles’ fiery arrow had finally done, not killing them, but fusing them all into a single entity, capable of being guided from above…

And now I had travelled up and then down that arrow, uniting the totality of my experience with John.

The golden sunlight streamed through the portal of the entrance. But, to my right something else red caught my eye. A scarlet rose had been taped to the old, rusty metal of exit’s door frame. With tears forming in my eyes, I took it…knowing it was for me.

And then I was in the street, and people were staring at me. Everywhere I turned people were curious about the woman with the flower in her hands, walking into a new world seen for the first time.

I wanted to give the rose to them, but I had only one rose and there were so many of them. How could I do that?

The sun shone at my back, I could feel its warmth on my head. I did not know what to do, but the previous sense of panic and confusion belonged to another world. In this one, the need to do something would be accompanied by the knowledge of what to do. That, I knew with a certainty.

 

Somewhere nearby, John might be watching… But it no longer mattered.

Everything that mattered was here… Everything that mattered was now…

End of Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee

If you have enjoyed these episodes; if you have enjoyed being challenged to explore yourself in this journey of myth, magic and esoteric psychology, why not take a look at what the Silent Eye offers to Companions on our three year, self-exploration programme.  Click here to link to our website page where you can download a free colour brochure.

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness is a not-for-profit organisation, based in the UK.  It has students (we prefer ‘Companions’) on four continents and offers a friendly journey towards the soul taken with the guided help of those who have taken that journey. There is no membership fee and no ongoing commitment, other than to buy the next, monthly lesson. Each lesson is priced (March 2016) at the minimum possible charge to allow us to attempt to break even – £10.00 per month.

Pictures of The Monument, London, from: http://www.themonument.info/

It’s an amazing creation. If you are in London, and you like its history, why not visit?

———————————————————–

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

Ben’s Bit, part 14 – A Pruning of Normality

Ben's Bit Nail Clipper

“Tell us about normal, Ben?” asks Dr Grey, looking like a man rejuvenated, as he glances sideways for approval from the silent Governor. “In your own words, of course…”

I try to stay calm. The three people in the room are transmitting a mixture of emotions at me. I’m very sensitive to that. It’s probably what led me to study spirituality. You can’t always trust feelings to represent the whole truth, but they always transmit a certain level of power.

Dr Grey, for example, is radiating resentment at me. He shouldn’t be, given that his superior in this situation is giving him some very strong backup. The Governor is leaning back in his black leather executive chair, its gleaming metal sub-structure bent at an impossible angle to accommodate the stretch created by the heels of his calf-leather shoes being on the far corner of the interview table. The Governor is not radiating resentment; he’s projecting the feeling of impending revenge at me. Quite why this is coming at me, in such thick waves, is a mystery. I’ve known him less than a week, yet I seem, already, to be an enormous irritant.

Is he, perhaps, as trapped as I am? It’s an interesting thought… If I could just find out what frightens him I might stand a chance. Such drivers as revenge are always a sign of something much deeper at the level of fear. My blazing knife flashes white in my mind, having mentally carved ‘I will not crumble‘ on my left arm, in a carefully staged psycho-drama the previous night, though now I confess to being a little ashamed of it…the mental ritual, not the resolve.

“Ben?” I return my gaze to Dr Grey, angling my head, obligingly. “We’d like an answer, please…” he says, reasonably.

“Of course–sorry!” I sneak a glance at the Governor who has decided to pick his elegant nails in disgust at my inability to focus. “Normality…in my own words, yes?”

“Yes, Ben,” Dr Grey says. “You’re an intelligent man. Tell us your view of normality.”

“In my own words?” In the flicking of nail on nail I can hear the Governor snapping one of my fingers in his mind; but he says nothing. The chair, however, has stopped wagging from side to side. Its occupant is rattled. What is it?

Time to change the tempo, I think to myself – one of my few weapons. “Normality is a subjective thing!” I say with gusto, leaning forwards to speak so they can see my enthusiasm as I place my hands on the pock-marked black plastic surface of the table and spread out my fingers in a deliberate copy of the Governor’s handiwork. The clicking of nail on nail ceases and I don’t need to look at the man to know he is staring at me with a particular intensity. ‘..shorten all this by shooting you in the back of the head…‘ is the fragment of a sentence I actually hear in my mind.

This is new… I don’t recall ever doing that before–actually reading someone’s mind in a literal sense; but then, perhaps no-one, not even Yellow Eyes, has ever hated me this much… and perhaps I’ve never been this frightened before, even if I’m not showing it.

Without looking at the man holding my life between his well-manicured fingers, I continue my exploration of ‘normality’.

“We can subscribe to another’s code of normality, but I believe the question is directed at a deeper level, so I will not insult you all with a veneer of an answer.”

Dr Grey is actually leaning forward with his hands on the table, too.  He looks delighted that his pet madman is actually using the language of a psychologist. I wonder if he knows what danger he’s in? Not from me, of course, but from the ex-mercenary in the corner who has now clocked the fact that I have led a series of gestures to which his stooge has subscribed.

Time to press the advantage, then… “Normality is something we adopt, the product of a pain-reward system that society imposes with differing degrees of severity…” I blast the last word, mentally, into the room, knowing it will bounce of the psychic walls and cause havoc. “You can’t blame society, of course,” I say quickly and apparently apologetically. “We can’t have a civilisation full of individuals or we’d have no Saxon crosses left…”

Dr Grey’s head drops and hangs between bitterly disappointed shoulders. He pushes back from the table and takes a breath to speak, but the Governor cuts him off. “Do you think we use severity in here, Ben?” he asks, in a voice that is precise and terrifyingly soft.

I turn to look, conscious that a wall of rage awaits me, but what I see is unsettling beyond any attempt at composure. From his suit pocket, he’s taken a pair of surgical nail clippers and is holding them up in his right hand, pretending to use the inset nail file to smooth his manually-torn nail edges.

It’s not a question. Its not even something that Dr Grey is capable of responding to, though he begins to mouth a weak response into the carefully crafted and deadly silence generated by his controller.

It is a question that an elegant lady in very smart heels can answer; and she does so with the most perfect gesture I could think of. Miss Goodnight – miss Golding the golden one, my grateful mind sighs, as the tension leaks from my knotted fingers, has got up and, stealing centre stage, reaches into her handbag to take out a ladies’ disposable nail file. She clicks across the few feet between her former seat at my left and the extended circular base of the Governor’s arse and slides it to him over the polished surface of the table.

“Here,” she says. “Try this…you’ll find it’s much more appropriate…”

<See index below for other parts of this story>

———————————————————–< to be continued-

Ben’s Bit is a continuing first-person narrative of the character created by Stuart France and Sue Vincent, which may bear some relation to the author of this story, Steve Tanham, their fellow director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness.  In the latest of their books, Scions of Albion, Ben is arrested for his overly enthusiastic part in a mad escapade, and the other two are nowhere to be seen . . .  For more, enjoy their Doomsday series of books, and the new series (Lands of Exile) of which the first book, But n’ Ben, is now available.

Index to Ben’s Bits:

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen,

Sue Vincent describes her and Stuart’s perspective on Ben’s imprisonment: Part One, Part Two

The Doomsday Series of books and the new book, But n’ Ben by Stuart France and Sue Vincent

The Silent Eye School of Consciousness – a modern mystery school.

All contents ©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016

Silent Eye modern masterAA

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 53 – Two Rivers

 

Two RiversAAA

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 53 – Two Rivers

.Alexandra.

It was still dark, though the light from the East was streaming into the cold, blue, air. The two take-away cups of coffee looked disappointing. Not because I could already seen their contents, but because they weren’t from Rose’s cafe.

“Last week we were flying over North Lancashire and now the edge of an old market?” I said. My halo was slipping… The previous week’s extraordinary events had left me on such a high that I wanted my local magician to conjure up something wonderful and life-changing, again.

“Down to earth with a slump?” He smiled at me, looking very tricky. “Do we only find the life-changing up there?” he waved his coffee cup, perilously, at the sky.

Behind us, Sid, the local fishmonger, was hosing down the outside of his stall. People travelled from miles around to buy his fresh fish, bought off the dock and brought up here before dawn each morning from one of the local fishing ports. In Winter the stall was sold out by the time the sun came up. I looked at the assorted organic debris, being flushed into one of the market’s wide grids, and fought hard not to pull a face. I loved fish…but the sight of the dead bits did nothing for me.

“Of course not,” I said, chided. “I shouldn’t be sulking.”

“Quite natural, of course,” John replied. “One of the dangers with such a ‘high’ as last time is that it releases a lot of energy that feels like it belongs in that upper realm and not down here…” he tapped a booted toe near a discarded fish head that had escaped from a one of the stall’s plastic bins. “…with all the yucky stuff!”

I watched the water hose cleanse the concrete, directed in well-aimed jets that marked out a single whirling motion. “I can see the connection, though,” I responded more positively. “The eleventh Labour of Heracles–the Cleansing of the Augean Stables.”

“I don’t imagine they smelled very good either…”

“Not after thirty years of accumulated dung…no wonder everyone else had failed and people were dying like flies…”

“Heracles was disappointed, too – with his landing from the heights of Capricorn’s mountain, freshly lighted – but he rolled up his club and got on with it!”

“I looked down at my pin-striped legal suit, the expensively heeled shoes, and shuddered. “You want me to clean this fish stall in my business clothes!?”

“Not for now…”

My mind screamed, in your dreams fella! But I kept quiet. Not for now implied a breather before we got there. I flipped the fragile top off the cheap cup, burning my hand with the inevitable spill onto my skin. I suffered in silence, not drinking while I cursed.

Sid had an old assistant who was rather infirm. Long years of working in cold conditions, and collecting fish while the world slept, had taken its toll on them both. But Tony was bent and frail, yet, once again, as every day for the past thirty, he came out from behind the tattered, stripey flap and picked up the second hosepipe, ready and willing to conclude the day’s business.

“Never a change to that routine,” John said, over the steaming coffee, which he, too, had yet to drink. “They are quietly famous – as is the quality of their produce. Day in, day out: drive for fish, sell fish, clean stall, sleep while the world lives…”

Even John looked sad, his eyes filled with compassion at the plight of the elderly man having to work out his life in this never-ending hard and cold labour.

Sid, much younger and fitter, and still unaware of our study, took his own look at Tony and reached for an old flask. “Here, ‘Tony” he said, pouring the older man a plastic cup of hot tea. “Have this, before you freeze in that water!”

“What is it?” asked Tony. “Not bloody tea, again. Don’t you ever make coffee?” His voice was rough, like gravel. I supposed it went with the life, but there was something of great hardship and pain in the man’s demeanour.

“Lost his whole family in a fire many years ago,” whispered John, quietly. “Was unhinged for a while, but Sid brought him back and kept him alive… They’ve shared this brutal existence ever since; day in, day out…”

“I’m confused about why we’re here? How could spirituality change the life of someone like this?”

“Tony?” asked John. I nodded.

“Very easily…” He waited, looking at me as the growing light of the dawn brought our features into clear relief, there in the shadows. “Be with him,” he said. “Feel his pain… Bear witness as you would for a brother or sister. Remember Aquarius is the great leveller…and we can’t begin to know the nature of the energies that will be flowing into the conscious life on Earth in the years to come.”

He stood back, looking at me, waiting for the moment… “You could change his life right now,” he said, softly.

Something hit me then. Wave after wave of compassion poured out of me as I took in the two market workers, rubbing their hands in the cold light. I could feel John nodding as I walked the short distance to where Tony stood, holding out my coffee to him. “It’s okay,” I said into his startled face. “Just a little something for you… and, may I?” I took the hose from him and began to work the spiral patterns of cleaning, just as he had done. For a while I was somewhere else, just watching the water do the work for me, noticing that only my fine shoes were getting dirty from the splashing. The sense of a new state was overpoweringly wonderful. The simple act of helping had liberated me from the expected and into the real.

When I looked up, John was holding the other hose, which he had just taken from a smiling Sid. The younger man also had a new coffee in his hand. For ten minutes, we cleaned the back of the market stall with our waters. As we were leaving, Sid gave me a peck on the cheek, looking as though this happened every day… But I knew it didn’t.

We were about to cross the road and back to the seafront, when a gasping man limped up behind us. I turned to see Tony standing behind me, wordlessly holding out a fish wrapped in a single piece of newspaper. I didn’t care how much it would mess up my suit; I took it from him with tears in my eyes and kissed his cheek, running my fingers through his dirty hair.

John said nothing as we collected my luggage from the boot of his car at the station. As I was turning to board my London train, he spoke, “We’re nearly there…funny thing about giving to those who have nothing – you always end up getting more back…”

With that, he planted his uncle’s kiss in the customary fashion, but the hug spoke more loudly that any words could. “Welcome to the world of the lunatic…”

Nearly there… the words ran round my head most of the way to the City. Were we? and where had we been headed all this time?

———————————————————–

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 52 – A Descent of Fire

Prometheus gold statue

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 52 – A Descent of Fire

.Alexandra.

When I was younger I did some flying lessons. They began as ‘Try Out Day’ gift for one of my birthdays, and developed into an expensive hobby which I had to give up when I took out a mortgage on my midweek apartment in London.

As soon as I experienced the sheer joy of the Carnforth Flying School’s venerable Cessna talking off from it’s old grass strip near our home, I was hooked. Climbing, steeply, into the air and seeing the landscape falling away, below, was like entering a new world – one quite different from a trip in a commercial plane: scrubbed nicely clean and sanitised…

Tightly buckled into the small cabin of the Cessna, with my instructor next to me, sharing the intercom link in the headset, was a magical experience.

That was many years ago. There was no coffee in the cabin today, though. And my instructor was no stranger…

“I didn’t realise you had become a pilot!” I shouted above the noisy but vibrant engine. “Did you know I had done some flying, too?”

“Yes–you told me, once – many years ago.” John took his eyes off the altimeter and smiled across at me. My headset cracked with his voice. “Didn’t you stop just before you were due to do your first solo flight?”

I nodded, conserving my throat. There was sadness at the memory; a thing not finished, a road not taken…

“I did some student flying in my thirties,” said John, “But it got very expensive; too expensive for our young business to support,” he nodded at the memory, his eyes also somewhere far away. “Went back to it when I retired from the IT world. Recently qualified as an instructor!”

“So what’s all this got to do with Prometheus, the Hound of Hell, and Heracles?” I said.

John looked down through his side window. We were levelling off from our steep climb and turning Westwards.

“Notice how the worlds change; how ‘lived in’ become a ‘map from above’?” he said, ignoring my question.

“You couldn’t have a coffee with someone up here in the air!” I laughed, getting his drift. “Unless you were in the same plane…”

John smiled at that. “I’ve brought a flask, but I’m saving the coffee for something special.”

I turned to look at him, but the ironic smile on the lips said that there’d be no more for now… I decided to elaborate on what I knew to be an important connection between the scale of things and their realms, “But down there on the ground, where the view is much more local and small-scale, there are people drinking at Rose’s Cafe.”

Morecambe was just coming into view on the horizon, the early sun catching the tops of the taller buildings, making golden shards out of the faded glory of the old seaside town. It was beautiful…

“Which way then? Your choice!” asked John, levelling the plane off at our cruising altitude, somewhere over the small town of Kirby Lonsdale. Far below there were a multitude of tearooms, I thought, smiling to myself, but we wouldn’t be visiting them, either.

He never wasted an opportunity. I knew the choice of direction was a metaphor. “Pick what to do…a bit like Cerberus, then – the three headed dog? The one that guards the entrance to Hades?”

He laughed at my artifice. “Three heads, three choices?”  he said. “And I like ‘guards’. Go on then…the enigma of the three headed dog that stops dead people leaving?”

“One of the central issues of our lives – the trap of Desire!” I said over the resonant boom of the engine and its whining thrum-thrum.

He banked us slightly left, taking us onto an easterly course. The line of the distant ocean was a field of gold, lit from the dawn sky behind us.  “And the other two heads?”

“The left is sensation, the right, ‘good intentions’. They all have snakes wrapped around them…symbols of Illusion, I believe?”

John nodded. “Very good,” he said, levelling us off with the shining gold dead ahead. “And does Heracles attack the Sensations or the Good Intentions?”

“Neither!” I laughed, over the whining notes. “He strangles the middle one – Desire, itself, with his bare hands,” I’d had another flash of inspiration and added, “and thereby frees himself…and all the other dead people, if you think about it…”

“Like Buddha, then – he attacks the cause, not the symptoms…” John was smiling so much, his teeth were catching the gold of the sun, too. “Wonderful stuff! All yours, then…”

He sat back and let go of the controls. The Cessna’s nose began to dip, slightly – he hadn’t trimmed for level flight; probably deliberately!

“No!” I screamed into the dawn. But my hands reached out and took the controls as the old memories and skills came back to aid me.

“The Carnforth field is on 120 degrees, over there.” He pointed into the golden air. “You can set her down on your own–you can fly us to the underworld…”

My mind was shouting, but strangely, there was a sense of calmness; of purpose, there too. “Where’s the wind?” I yelled into the mike.

“Coming straight off the sea, I would say, right in line with our approach to the strip… you’ve been blessed with the perfect approach!” He looked around us then clicked on his radio link. “Charlie-Victor-Delta-Hotel forty-two…final…”

“Roger Charlie-Victor-Delta-Hotel forty-two.” Crackled the almost instant response.

Were they all in on it? I wondered.

“Damn you, uncle John,” I muttered, loud enough to be heard in his headset.

He chuckled. “Very appropriate that… besides, you seemed keen to take the controls.”

I was about to object, violently. when I realised he was talking metaphorically. Yes, sod it, I had pushed to take the ‘controls’; and had obviously seemed ready to go ‘solo’ even if he was next to me in the cabin… I wondered… Maybe one was never alone in the cabin of life, just not used to conversing with a loving intelligence that always sat next to us…

The landscape was getting bigger, houses and churches were becoming clearer, below, in all their detail. I recognised the height, the speed, the distance… I was doing it right…

About a half mile out from the small grass airstrip, which I could now see, there was a sudden flash of red and gold below us. I looked down and, for a second, I’ll swear I could see a tiny shadow of the plane in the gold-licked metal of the Glasgow to London train as it flashed by at a huge speed.

Then there was no more time to think, just to act. “Flaps to twenty,” I said pushing the the throttle back in, and trimming the plane as we coasted over the edge of the field and seemed to hang in the air, sinking very gently to land with a noisy series of bumps.

The Cessna quickly lost her speed on the grassy runway. With a simple, “I have control.” John upped the revs and taxied her off the runway and onto a remote part of the boundary, while I sat, numbed and looking straight ahead, silent and happy in a way I could not find words for.

I came to in the now silent cabin, at the smell of coffee being poured from a flask. The aroma filled the small space, along with another, less expected smell. I turned round to see him holding a steaming plastic mug out to me. In his other hand, he had a miniature bottle of cognac.

“The cognac’s for my cup of coffee,” he said with a wily smile.

“Why?” I whispered, feigning outrage.

“Because I’m preserving your liver,” he said, chuckling…

(Image – Prometheus and the return of the vulture)

———————————————————–

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

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

River of Sun logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————————————————–

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