We were sitting by the river, though earlier than usual. The padded plastic-bottomed picnic blanket I had brought serving us well as a coffee base on the cold limestone, which was constantly made wet by the spray from the rapids in the adjacent river Kent. Neither of us seemed to mind the gentle mist. The thermos flask had been half emptied and we were enjoying our coffee. We talked, gently. To anyone passing over the nearby bridge, we would have looked a strange pair – Alexandra in her legal suit, albeit it with walking boots; and me in jeans and summer teeshirt.
The mood was gentle. Fear, the central characteristic of station six on the enneagram of personality, was not a topic to which we needed to add much drama: it had enough of its own.
“We are all afraid,” I said. “It’s just a matter of degree and what frightens us, most. But fear has a very special spiritual role to play for us, as well.”
She sipped some coffee, resting herself on one elbow. “And choice?” she asked. “You indicated last week that we choose a lot of our own fear . . .”
“Yes,” I considered my next words carefully. “We are really like a native American totem pole, one where the different figures are layered on top of each other.” I thought about that concept, and wondered whether that had been the original meaning of such sculptures. I dimly remembered other people having written about the idea. The lower figures would be nearer to the world of instinctive reaction – that which keeps us alive, certainly; but that which restricts the processes of higher thought and emotions until we have enough experience, and, later, trust, to build something greater on that hilltop.”
I pointed to a coiled length of old rope, lying half in the shallows of a quiet pool, well back from the torrent.
“Take that harmless snake over there,” I said. The rope was discoloured from its long journey downstream, and covered in enough green algae to look like a convincing, and quite large, grass-snake. I knew it wasn’t of course; but only because I’d been here with Tess, our collie, many times.
I could feel Alexandra tensing, even though I had said it was a harmless snake. “It’s not, is it – a snake, I mean?”
“We could go over and see?”
“We could, but I’d rather you tell me that it wasn’t!”
“But then you’d be relying on my reality, my experience; and not investigating your own.”
“Which is how most fear starts,” she whispered into the mist, standing up on legs that weren’t completely steady. I watched with growing admiration as she took two steps nearer to the possible green reptile. “I’ll go,” she said, half-turning back to look at me. “But will you hold my hand just in case I freeze?”
“Gladly,” I said. “I just won’t do anything to interfere with the vividness of your experience.” I stood and took her proffered hand. Together, we walked across the wet limestone. I could tell to the second the point at which her snake became an old rope. Her muscles unsnapped, fluidity returned to her body, and she began her customary laughter; but, this time, without the retributions.
“Did you know?”
“Yes. Didn’t think I’d expose you to a real snake, did you?”
“I didn’t know for sure . . .”
“Precisely – and in that authentic unknowing you became totally present to the moment, and explored it with power.”
She nodded. Pleased to have done this so well.
“Given that it wasn’t a snake,” I continued. “What were you frightened of?”
“What, who . . .” she mouthed, driven on by my relentless questions. She snapped her head up, straightened her back, and looked down on the rope. “Well, there were only three players – you, me and the old green rope.” She was still laughing – something we all do after an attack of fear. “And I’m not known for being frightened of old bits of rope; so It must have been me!” she said.
“Exactly,” I replied, “And there is a name for being frightened of ourselves, and that is anxiety. I paused to let it sink in. “Real fear – fear in response to a danger that is present, often has its own resolution built in to the problem. The brave bit is to see the problem fully, and therefore to be fully conscious to it; if possible, with no reaction at all – which I admit is easier said than done; but that shouldn’t stop us trying . . .”
“And the spiritual side of all this?” she asked
“All the inner traditions speak of a final act of coming face to face with fear, itself – not fear of an object – as the last act before a significant degree of illumination is given . . .” I paused before adding, “And remember that fear belongs only to the world of the ego, the personality – it has no place in the world of Being.
“And the importance of point six in all of this?”
“The dweller at point six, which we view in the Silent Eye as The Fugitive, is one whose life is lived on a volcano of fear, yet who is amazingly loyal and brave in action.”
“Sounds almost sacrificial?”
“Well, yes, in many ways, that’s how I view it, too, though the many excellent text books on the subject don’t dwell on that. Within the Silent Eye, we like to keep alive the ancient and magical ideas on such subjects, so I would say that sacrifice is a good concept to use, here . . .”
To be continued . . .
Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.
Steve Tanham is a founding director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness; a place of companionship, sharing and the search for the real in life, using the loving techniques and insights of esoteric psychology. He retired from a life as an IT entrepreneur to establish the School in 2102, and, having persuaded Sue Vincent to
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