A chip off the old block? (part 1 of 2)

cube of space+wake you smaller

We have a phrase in English; that someone is a ‘chip off the old block’. Its meaning is that someone of merit is continuing the ‘family’ tradition. I suppose it could also refer in a wider context to someone in a group or organisation doing the same thing.

A group of scientists are promoting a ‘new’ theory: that of the ‘Block Universe’ or “Evolving Block Universe’. It’s not entirely new. The idea of a static universe where the only change is the evolution of the conscious inhabitants has been around for a while; and touches on some of the deepest ideas in philosophy and metaphysics.

Just think about that for a moment to grasp the sheer strangeness of the concept. Look around you and watch the shifting view, the tiny changes, the way you move your coffee mug, shift your position on the chair, drive the car through an autumnal landscape…. But you don’t do any of that, according to Block Theory. Instead what you are experiencing is your journey of consciousness along a hyper-road which maps and separates what is possible (with reference to where you started) to where you might choose to be next.

Only you change… and even then, only your consciousness; the hyper-globe in front of you reveals itself in an experience of movement – including your own body and organs. But… and it’s a big one… nothing out-there is really changing – we are just choosing what to see next amongst the possibilities. And, startlingly, this may be the ultimate purpose of the brain.

Within this world, the present has reality; the past has a lesser reality but is at least consistent; but the future does not exist. Reality belongs to where consciousness is. Conventional Block Theory conceives of a supremely thin wedge of passing time that is now… but philosophers dismissed this long ago as meaningless. There is not, nor can there ever be, a wedge of the ‘present’ small enough to contain the conscious now. In simple terms the observation may be in the present, and recorded in the brain; but the observer, by definition, isn’t… The observation becomes immediate history.

Those interested in metaphysics of any sort will recognise much of what is taught and experienced in their Work in this ‘new’ theory. We do not have a centre of consciousness, we are a centre of consciousness. In fact, within us there are two conscious centres: the first is a self that is grown in reaction to the world we experience – even though we are choosing it – The second is a deeper, super-conscious ‘presence’ which is not really a centre at all, it just retains an outer identity for the lifetime in which it is linked to the organic being and its personality.

Why is it called ‘Block Theory’? Here it gets interesting. There are two theories based on this idea of a three dimensional cube of length, breadth and height; where time is the expansion, but only via interaction with consciousness. The second, or derived theory is named ‘Evolving Block Theory’.

The use of  ‘Expanding’ suggests that this newly envisioned cosmos is actually growing… Mystics may recognise the idea that the universe or ‘God’ expands through the consciousness of its creation growing from within. It’s a staggering thought, that God is ‘not finished’, but evolves, too! Such a view has, of course, caused much controversy over the years.

Previous centuries have contained cosmological views that are very primitive in the light of modern science; but science is only now learning to value the presence of consciousness in the whole world-picture. Interestingly, some of the most ancient philosophies and religions were the very opposite and placed the development of consciousness, itself, at the centre of knowledge of the ‘world’.

The idea that the universe has past and present realities but no future except that which is unfolding in the now dovetails nicely with some of the better science fiction stories. One in particular that fits is the Hugo Award winning Hyperion series by Dan Simmons. In the story, Hyperion is a simple, colonised world to which a future civilisation sends an horrific artificial monster; a cyborg so dreadful that the whole of the Earth-derived space ‘Federation’ is drawn into a cataclysmic battle around its destiny. The cyborg – the Shrike – has been sent backwards in time to show the children of Earth the consequences of mindlessness, violence and lack of compassion. Although written in 1989, it is chillingly prescient about today’s society. The Shrike’s victims are impaled on a ‘tree of metallic thorns’ where their suffering is endless. I would imaging many abandoned souls on this Earth would describe their plight as similar…

From a mystical point of view – and in keeping with Block Theory – we may speculate that all that people of sufficient positioning and power within society would need to do would be to choose a different path, together. But then we may consider that we have no power nor right to change someone else’s path. We only have responsibility for our own. Mystics have taught for millennia that when we change our own thoughts, we change our own worlds.

This brings to mind the nature of real choice. most of the choices we make are as a result of our conditioning: they are automated responses based on pleasure and pain. This conditioning, and its resulting force – habit, is a necessary feature of our organic existence and as such is important for our survival. However, when faced with the idea of a voluntary higher evolution, we may choose to approach the nature of choice from a different perspective; especially in the light of theories such as the Block Universe. We will explore this further in the concluding part two.

From the point view of our choice of accelerated evolution, if Evolving Block Theory has any truth in it, then our personal possibilities have just expanded greatly. In fact, we only need make the right choices in order to radically change our lives.

On a chessboard a pawn may, with a few moves, gain the back row – the 8th rank, and transform itself into any of: Bishop, Rook, Knight or Queen of the same colour Only the King remains beyond this alchemy, though a Queen may mate with a King… We may reflect on this and wonder at how these deep and significant patterns are threaded through our history in ways that keep them in front of our unawakened gaze, like seeds awaiting their time in the sun… The important parallel is that to completely change our lives would take far fewer moves than we imagine.

If the block theories have merit, then we may be able to transform ourselves into personal ‘kings and queens’. As ‘royals’ in our own lives, we would have our own kingdom and would have no desire to control others and thereby restrict the freedom of those we should be helping along their own path.

To borrow from Isaac Newton: we may find our selves (our consciousness) crossing the paths belonging to Giants. Through the right choices: the Buddhist ‘right action’, for example, we may find ourselves ‘on the shoulders of giants’ in the sense of inheriting their wisdom – and choosing, with all our being, to follow it… Our journey through the Block of the intelligent universe as the fourth dimension may just have become a lot more lively!

To be continued…

©️Stephen Tanham

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

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

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

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


Of Time

Of Time

Of Time I do not speak
Position and duration are my nouns
Eternal transition my verbs
Consciousness my palette

The plucking of imaginary points
Is how you speak of time
Inferred and constant highway
Present only to the mind
But passing time alone
Knows no such waypoints
It speaks, if at all, of watchers
Now present to changes, now not.
©Stephen Tanham

#Silenti – A Rose Beyond Violence, part two

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), photographed in 1929. Picture source, see end of post

In part one, we examined Krishnamurti’s view that the individual could, with considerable effort, ‘unclip’ themselves from their society (though not broadcast it) and begin to separate out the pieces of their world in order to contemplate violence in a new way…

This would begin the process of giving the objective world (what IS) some initial power over the egoic self, which had grown to assume a role as something it was not capable of, being entirely subjective and without true centre.

We may think that anything that purports to address violence would begin by considering aggression. But Krishnamurti took a different route: he said that it must begin with a new way of seeing.

We might reasonably think that having reached adulthood and tested our vision in both physical and intellectual tussles, we were perfectly capable of seeing without further guidance.

Not so, said the teacher..though he suggested we must be our own teacher in this as in so many real things.

Seeing as we knew, it, he maintained, was the result of our personal history. Not history as we generally know it, but an accretion of ‘stuff’ that clouded every attempt to see out of this fog of confusion we called the self. We are, he said, not a single entity. We have a self that arises in family and with loved ones; a self that arises when we face up to the confrontational challenges in our workplace; a self that reacts as it does not want to when we are forced to do something – the imperatives of survival dictating that we preserve this ‘self’ at all costs. There were many more.

To approach violence and fear, we had to come to know a new type of seeing, one that belonged to a new self, a self that examined the flow of itself without judgment in order to place a watcher on she/he who claimed to watch…

What does this second watcher do?

In order for this entity to exist, it must, in a sense, step backwards from a world that is painted on our eyeballs; a world that triggers us to react with every breath, never having the time nor the energy to truly ‘see what to do’ without thought.

And, arriving at that point, Krishnamurti said, we began to glimpse that our history, reaction, time and fear were all secretly knitted into a fabric dominated by the chief villain of the piece… thought.

Continued in Part Three

Previous Parts:

Part 1,

Picture source.


This is the second in a series of postings related to topical issues in mysticism. They will all carry the hashtag #Silenti. Please feel free to reply or join in, using this hashtag.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.

#Silenti – A Rose Beyond Violence, part one

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), photographed in 1929. Picture source, see end of post

Many people are in a state of shock following a series of electoral surprises that have rocked the political ‘liberal establishment’ on both sides of the Atlantic. Racist attacks are on the increase and long-respected ‘experts’ are frequently mocked. We are in danger of throwing away many of the principles of established civilisation. It’s easy to feel that these uncertain times contain the seeds of extreme violence.

Politics works on the basis that large populations are capable of collective and constructive behaviour. But, there are other perspectives that speak, philosophically, of the effect that a relatively small group of people may have on an era, outside of politics, entirely.

Two figures in this latter mould are G. I. Gurdjieff and Jiddu Krishnamurti. In this series of posts, we look at the radical approach that Krishnamurti took to human freedom, which he said belonged only to the individual who was capable of observing himself/herself to such a level that a process of self-change could be initiated at the levels of mind, emotion and instinct.

Part of this process was to be prepared to completely cast off the conventional ways of thinking about things. Leaving behind beliefs, temperament and conditioning is no simple matter. This was particularly true of the subject of violence, which Krishnamurti viewed as the scourge of modern society, and endemic in our capacity for self-destruction.

Krishnamurti saw violence everywhere around us: outwardly and in our relationships with each other. He saw it in both politics and religion, and may well, had he lived, have seen it in the modern use of technology. All of this, he wrote, produces sorrow, which saps the creativity and coherence of life in society.

How are we to react to violence, which, in this era is even more threatening than in Krishnamurti’s time? Can we look to the experts, the politicians, the priests? His view was that all such respected ‘authorities’ have failed, leaving the individual to find their own answers.

Krishnamurti argued that we are, as human citizens, as fragmented as the societies in which we live, and that there was an unseen and potent relationship in this. He maintained that we were not, individually, in a position to affect society in a religious or political sense, but we did have great potential to turn ourselves into a true individual, in which case there would occur a binding between the actions we subsequently undertook and our effect on the violence we previously abhorred.

In part two, we will look at how the individual may approach violence in themselves, taking apart the pieces so that they can be held up to the inner light of objective consciousness.

Picture source.


This is the second in a series of postings related to topical issues in mysticism. They will all carry the hashtag #Silenti. Please feel free to reply or join in, using this hashtag.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.

#Silenti – The Ancient Now


You may have noticed I’ve been a bit quiet of late. I’m spending a lot of time ‘in the now’.

I’m in the final stages of writing the Silent Eye’s three year home-study course on the Magical Enneagram, and the subject of ‘now’ is crucial to the last four lessons.

Some subjects are just so profound that they have the capacity to change your life, even if only a glimpse of their depth and profundity is gained. One of these is the subject of now, or, as I’ve titled it here, ‘The Ancient Now.’

How can a ‘now’ be ancient? Surely the very notion of now means that it is a slice of time that occupies the present so precisely that we can rightly call it the now, as opposed to a frozen past or the potential future… but you can sense the quicksand straight away – that sinking feeling that we could never find a sliver of time so small that it would meet that definition.

And would that be enough, anyway? When we look into the deeper and increasingly common use of the spiritual ‘now’ we find other dimensions. The now is used, often, to point to an immediacy of experience in which we come to have a different relationship with the contents of our experience–and experience can only be in the now.

When I take away the distractions of ordinary consciousness, the desk in front of me assumes a sense of stillness, as though a noise–which did not exist objectively–has suddenly been switched off in my head.

In many ways, it has…

Focus of this kind has long been taught by spiritual schools; but the very words ‘spiritual schools’ can put people off. People assume, sometimes correctly, that a whole load of other things would need to be adopted or endorsed before such keys were passed over the threshold. We try to avoid that…

We don’t need to talk about God to talk about the now. All we need is an observer and something to observe. The observer is easy, that would be each of us, though we can never truly know another’s experience, so we’re only ever going to be able to talk about ‘me’. The simplicity of the observed can sometimes be confusing. We are used to the idea that, that in order to make meditative progress, we need to narrow it down to the often-quoted orange on a desktop, like I have in front of me, here. But the Mac behind it, or the white paint of the room, or the rows of books that line my study would do just as well. When I look at them they are all equally of my experience and therefore in the now.

In fact, the problem is that the observed is the whole of our external experience, and we only narrow it down to the orange so that our ever-intrusive minds can have just one thing to distract us with.

What interferes with the nowness of that experience is the habitual chattering of the mind – names, opinions, likes, dislikes and frustrations, all of these and hundreds more want to narrate our internal experience for us. But all we really need is to wordlessly be with that experience in order to change what happens when we truly observe.

The real study of now implies a completely different relationship to what is observed-our experience. The ancients told us about this a long time ago, so there’s nothing new, here. At school we are taught that the picture physics paints of a linear series of seamless moments is the correct way to view time. This implies that the intelligence is with the moments, that march past us in perfect drill. We are just passive bystanders, watching the parade which will continue to be a parade whether we watch it or not…


Some dare to consider something far more radical. They hint at a new relationship with the now, one beyond the marching band of habitual viewing. They speak of dirty lenses with which we view things in time… and everything else with which we have a relationship involving the ‘self’. They speak of subjective ways to discover that what is truly ‘out there’ is not only the real now, but breathtaking beautiful, too.

Beyond the marching band then, there may be only a single soldier, coming forward in an infinity of guises, in moments of arising whose purpose and sequence means that each one is eternally new. We may never capture this soldier, nor even photograph him–for, like the now, itself, he can never be anything but changing. But, having glimpsed him, we will be inspired to seek him out, always.


This is the first in a series of postings related to topical issues in mysticism. They will all carry the hashtag #Silenti. Please feel free to reply or join in, using this hashtag.

©Stephen Tanham, 2016.