“December man looks through the snow to let eleven brothers know . . . that they’re all a little older.”
December is, finally, gone. There is a weariness about January. The comfort and festivities with which we brace ourselves against the oncoming winter have lost their potency – and, thankfully, their habitual power to affect our errant waistlines, for which we now have to atone . . . The tree and glitter are put away, and the howling and cold winds remind us that the spring is yet far away.
“The January man he goes around in woollen coat and boots of leather,” continues Christy Moore, singing on the music machine in the corner of the living room. It was recorded live at the eponymous Vicar Street in Dublin, and is one of our favourite albums, though it has not been played for a year or two.
Humming the tune, I look out on a garden turned to thin greens and muddy browns, and wonder, as I always do in the pale light of the year’s first month, about the sheer effort we have to make to transform this rather empty time of year into the purposeful soil that will bring a rich harvest of time well spent as the sun’s daytime arc overcomes the darkness and tips the fourfold scales of the seasons into the spring.
Aside from the usual family commitments, this time of year comprises the final three months before the Silent Eye’s Spring Workshop. This is our main annual event, held in April, which takes place in the lovely Derbyshire village of Great Hucklow. More than anything else, these weekend events define what the three of us – Sue, Stuart and myself – have both been and what we have become.
Been, because the elements of discussions, shared explorations and ritual drama are a very precise synthesis of where we came from, and what we learned from our past work, spanning many decades. We always honour those traditions in which we learned our craft. Although different, they gave us that breadth of experience which now constitutes the core of the Silent Eye School.
Become, because any attempt to establish a modern mystery school inevitably draws you into an alchemy – both personal and shared – in which you cannot be in the mix of the act of creation unless you are prepared to be changed by it – a sentiment pioneered by Carl Jung.
This year’s workshop, the River of the Sun, is based on a fictional but very spiritual tale, whose context is the real history of the period three generations after the death of the enigmatic ‘heretical’ pharaoh Akhenaten. The creation of such a workshop requires that we let go of last year’s model and reach deep for something new, something which will carry the spirit of the times. The importance of the ‘now’ and its creative flow, was one of the lessons brought home to us during our year-long series of talks given in Glastonbury in the twelve months just finished.
The actual effort to write the workshop – usually running to 150 pages of workbook scripts, plus five talks which reinforce the backbone of the School’s teaching – fills most of what will be the next three months. Five key elements of how the soul evolves will be illustrated by the ritual dramas. These reflect real life, in that certain characters are set up as adversaries. For this year’s plot, the enigmatic figure of Menascare, chief mage and spymaster to the incoming young pharaoh, Rameses II, represents the physical power which intercepts the initiatic life of the Isis temple on the Nile island of Philae. The chief priestess and priest of Isis are suspected of harbouring an inner thread of a different teaching, hidden and protected within the traditional worship of the goddess.
Staring out at the cold and sodden garden, I wonder at the process that will take us from here to there. In practice, we can only begin it. We bring the seed of an idea and plant it into the dark soil of January, trusting that the magic of the winter will nurture it within that subconscious land of Persephone. There, we find the most wonderful of processes at work. The seed of the first set of ideas produces a harvest of a second generation; this is examined and re-planted back in the soil of February.
“February man still shakes the snow from off his clothes and blows his hands,” continues Christy Moore.
The hands are indeed the key, as furious fingers home in on ideas that thaw from the raw stuff of potential, becoming fixed on the pages of the growing scripts.
“The man of March he sees the spring and wonders what the year will bring; and hopes for better weather.”
The process is repeated, producing a crop that is the nearly finished offering, towards the end of March, subject to the fine tuning that ensures that everyone attending has a (scripted) role that they will play for the whole weekend. Thus, their own, growing subjective experience becomes part of the unique alchemical mix.
The man of March has another role. He must make a judgement regarding the point at which the crop will be harvested, the ideas set down on the page, allowing time only for the final tuning and fitting to the confirmed attendees.
“through April rain the man goes down to watch the birds come in to share the summer.”
To share the summer, indeed – or at least the spring. The final group of people arrive in the tiny village of Great Hucklow, where the venue – the Nightingale Centre – is a two minute walk from the Queen Anne, a pub with a warm open fire and warmer welcome. If new, they are made very welcome; and introduced to those sharing the event. Any nerves give way to relaxation and enjoyment as the Silent Eye’s traditional welcoming spirit pervades the gathering.
The Friday night formal beginning to the weekend sees the introduction of each of the characters, as the fast boat of Rameses, carrying Menascare and a phalanx of elite soldiers, glides through the dark night to force an arrogant interruption to the Isis temple space in which the initiation of a young and very special priest is taking place . . .
By Saturday morning, everyone is living their roles, and the magic unfolds. Gone are the walls of the Nightingale Centre, replaced by the living presence of ancient Egypt, as the birds of the spirit emerge from the inner and judge the framework fitting for their purposes . . .
. . . becoming present.
With a sigh that last three months, I am back in the present where all this exists in potential, only. I look out at the sodden soil of the garden . . . But something has changed – there is a heartbeat, albeit a slow one, in the depths of that dark earth.
In the deep of winter and in the hearts and minds of the January ‘men’, something new has begun to germinate . . .
For anyone interested in last year’s workshop, the book “The Land of the Exiles” will give a good idea of what to expect from the Silent Eye’s April event. We look forward to making you very welcome.