Becoming Nothing

‘Become Nothing’

He didn’t use those exact words but that was the meaning of what he wrote. The words were suddenly there in the moment in my consciousness… and I knew they were right.

I had been reading a piece by Krishamurti – that fearless enemy of dogma, and proponent of the individual’s right to find their own spiritual path.

It does involve a certain amount of bravery – to contend with that feeling of ‘going against’ those of wisdom, those from whom we can learn, perhaps those of a tradition in which we were raised or trained. But that wasn’t Krishnamurti’s point; he didn’t deny anyone their well-found wisdom, rather, he urged each one of us to find our own… not second-hand knowledge. And to do that, the only way is to go out there and play with the universe; but play with a spirit of intent. And this is where it gets a little complex… until you see the whole of what he was saying…whereupon it gets very simple.

When you play with the universe, you do so in a way that stares in wonder at what you see. There’s a grown thing, covered in rust and tar and road rage; and it’s stuck onto our eyes, forming a film. This gritty, dirty, bitten lens imbues everything we try to see with its sticky waste. Staring in wonder at what you see is the cleaner that wipes the dirty grown thing from our eyes. For most, it happens in little stages, but there are some who ‘take the kingdom of heaven by storm’. They have a moment – a surging, brilliant moment that melts and washes what is keeping them from looking at the world, a universe that is alive and waiting to respond, personally, to their presence, their conversation, their love…

And when you find that relationship with what used to be ‘out there’ you will find that the primary desire of that sticky, dirty, bitten thing was always to change what was out there, because it wasn’t good enough – and having achieved that, to change it, again… and again….

The mind which knows only thought knows no rest.

‘Becoming nothing’ – what does it really mean? It is a mantra of power. It is a moment of revelation that alters our relationship to the whole of our lives. To reveal it via words would reduce the power of each of us being able to step through that mirror of self. It would rob the reader of the self-same experience. But this much can be said: that the word ‘nothing’ should not be the main focus until the rest is understood. What follows, then, is a journey of realisation that shifts who we are, and takes away its central power in our lives, leaving…

And you will have to fill in that space.

©️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.

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The Mind Tree

It’s little more than a hillock

A green slope, with mist

Until the sky rips open

And something unseen

Reaches down

To ink a drawing of

The possible

Then mind, seizing itself

Creates the living tree

©️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.

Principles of Fire (3) essence and origin

Part One

It is unusual to be able to say definite things in the teaching of spirituality, and yet, with essence, we can…

We can say three definite things: that Essence is our life; and that everything that is not essence is reaction and the history of reaction. We can also say, as did the ancient alchemists, that essence is not an idea, not a creation of the mind, not a thing to be imagined and created, but a physical pre-existing thing with substance. The alchemists, with their gift for hiding things under our own noses, described this ‘stone of the wise’ as ‘hidden in plain sight’.

You may never have heard of the word essence in the context of spirituality. Its use was an attempt by practical mystics of the last century to resolve the profusion of ideas surrounding the real meaning of the word ‘soul’. The word soul is used all the time, and we may already have an idea as to what it is. We think of something as ‘soulful’ when it touches us at a depth beyond the usual reaction. We think of our lives as, perhaps, a journey towards our own soul. We may consider that our soul will survive the death of our body, and travel through some afterlife. Or you may not… You may love the idea of a very exact definition of something that has been described as the centre of our real existence.

The ancients, who gave us the name soul, did not have the benefit of what we now call psychology – the study of the self. In this context, the self is the intense feeling of ‘me’ that is the centre of what we feel and do. The self feels pleasure – running towards it – and is frightened of pain, from which it retreats. The body feels pleasure and pain, but, beyond automatic responses, such as being burned, it is the self, rather than the body, that has control of how we react. We can force ourselves to feel pain, we can force ourselves to indulge in excessive pleasures, we can direct ourselves towards the good. For some reason, the forces of nature and evolution have placed an engine of determination at the supposed summit of our physical and psychological being.

Ultimately, and of the deepest significance, we can choose what we do… and, with guidance, how we react.

This engine of reaction and determination was viewed, in ancient times, as inseparable from the soul–the supposedly deeper and better part of us. Religion is aimed at the soul, and, like alchemy, the separation of the base response from the finer response is considered to be under its jurisdiction.

And then, in the early years of the last century, a man named Sigmund Freud began to scientifically study how this self – this engine of reaction and determination – is formed in the human childhood. His work is now considered to be slanted too much towards the effects of sex, but, despite this, he gave us a rich and accurate vocabulary of the real divisions of the self. Other psychologists followed, like Carl Gustav Jung, who held wider views of the layers of conscious and unconscious motivation in the human – us. There were many more, and this article has to be brief.

Someone touched by the spark of the mystical life seeks to deepen that relationship with the real, seeing that their ordinary perceptions, passed on by society and education, are really descriptions of morality and normality, not the fire of that which lifts the heart and mind, bestowing on it the certainty of a higher and self-evident set of truths.

For the mystical path, Freud’s insights remain of great use, though no claim is made that he was mystical in his outlook. Carl Jung was far more spiritual in his approach, but saw spirituality as the extension of the life we know. Freud established that there were three parts of the human engine of self: the ego, the superego, and the id.

The id is the ‘animal side’ of our natures. It is a storehouse of vast energies – many of which we suppress out of fear or misunderstanding. Much of what the id does has been pushed from our consciousness. We therefore name its domain the subconscious, and this refusal to come to terms with its potential results in great suffering in our idealised lives. Society does not like the id. It is an untamed expression of what is within us…

The Superego is the idealised self – an ongoing image of perfection that we can never reach. It nags at our lives and can never be pacified until we recognise its real nature. It often takes the inner form of an authority figure from our own past, such as our mother or father. Its presence within our lives is very active. It is the opponent of real spirituality, though the zealot often delights in its merciless company.

The ego is the bit in the middle; the ‘me’, the personality that tries to hold the whole thing together, attempting to mediate and keep the ship afloat. The ego is what we usually present to the world, but the inner picture of ourselves includes the doubts, wild energies and fears of our real inner state – which encompasses the other, hidden sides of the self.

Esoteric psychology has taken this picture much deeper. Where psychology is concerned with stabilising the personality and ensuring the ego serves society, esoteric psychology recognises that the spiritual is already part of our lives… in fact is the deepest part; beyond the reach and power of the ordinary self, though suppressed in the sense that the egoic self is established as a false king or queen in our lives. To understand the perspective of esoteric psychology, we need to understand our own origin

Within the womb, we share our lives with Mother, in what is sometimes called the merged state. We are not conscious of our separateness from Mother. What she feels or fears, we do, too. Because we have no sense of self, we come to externalise our consciousness and reactions into the ‘sea and sky’ of our mother. This forms the deepest of patterns that will determine how we interact with our future world – and with other people in that world.

We can speculate all we like about the nature of time in the universe. They will remain ideas. What is real for us is that our time began when our pre-infant consciousness in the womb began to register that things detected by what we would later know as our senses changed.

When we are born, the shock of separation from this merged state is profound, but Mother is still with us. Our mouth becomes the link to her goodness and her gentle hands and body warmth compensate for the oneness that we have lost. But this state cannot last. When we were merged, her desires were ours. Now, born as an independent creature, our needs and desires are our own, and, increasingly, they are not met in the same way as before. This forces us to a second ‘birth’–one in which the self, as described above, is born. Fighting to get back to a merged state, it forms itself, in the first few years of life, into the engine of reaction and determination described above. The result is that the perfect newborn nature, full of qualities like joy, love and a sense of its own intrinsic value, becomes submerged beneath a suit of armour that the self builds for protection from ‘life’.

Our personality develops very quickly after that. Unsettled yet empowered by the id, besieged by the nagging superego, the self that is <insert your name> staggers into the world…

For some, the walls of the self become a container that they are no longer prepared to tolerate. They feel that their own depths contain a very beautiful, if unattended child of light. The journey to that begins when they notice certain patterns in the mental and emotional ‘sky’ of their lives. These patterns may at first seem negative, but investigation reveals that they are capable of functioning as signposts back to a personal world in which the original child of light can be restored at the centre of our lives, protected by the now mature warrior of the self.

There’s just one problem. The warrior of the worldly self, the ego, has no intention of surrendering its castle… in which it has installed itself as King or Queen.

But the Child of Light is real. She is the essence of the being. And, alongside the maturity of the outer warrior, her strength is ready to take on the negative world of the self and break down its false walls.

In Part Two, we will consider the steps we need to take if we are to embark on this journey of the discovery and crowning of the true Self.

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His 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.

Principles of Fire (2) belief-faith-knowing

Continued from Part 1.

Before me on the table is an electrical device. It needs a new battery and to do that I have to remove the cover. The small screw holding it is of the type that requires a screwdriver with a cross-head. My mind is intrigued that this illustration of ‘knowing’ has come into the ‘now’, but it has, and I’m grateful.

I open my domestic toolkit that lives beneath the shoe polish in the utility room. Inside is a group of small cross-headed screwdrivers. As long as the size of the head is correct, I know this will open the battery cover of the clock. How do I ‘know’ this for a fact? And how did I come to have such a certainty of success that I can lay aside everything else I’m doing to focus all my energies on this simple but important task?

In Part 1, we spoke of belief and faith – but not in terms of religion; rather in terms of psychology and a more general spirituality. In that post, I said that belief advanced to faith, but that there was something beyond faith. Now we come to what that something is, and it may come as a surprise that is knowledge – or, rather, the act of knowing; something we take for granted… but shouldn’t.

I ‘know’ because I’ve done it, before. But even that is not the start of the trail. I only know this because someone once showed me how to do it. Even then, we haven’t finished chasing this back. Someone showing me is not the same as doing it myself. When this happens, successfully, I get more than a mental tick in the box; I get the rush of entry into a new world. This may be a small victory, but think back to bigger examples, like the first time your parents removed their supporting hand and you rode your bike…wobbling off into your excited future.

Science might say you that your brain and muscles simply added a capability. This is certainly true, but is that how it felt? And doesn’t our motivation to try for other expansions of self get driven by how it feels?

For spirituality to have any real meaning – beyond the intellectual ‘purity’ of the zealot – it should take us into a newer world each time we make a breakthrough. Belief and faith are not exempt from this expectation. The belief in an ‘afterlife’, where we live in a state of bliss, free from our ‘lower’ natures, has caused more heartache than can be imagined. Life is now, life is here. We know that the biblical parables spoke in metaphor, yet we don’t always think to apply this to the meaning of life and death.

Death happens, there is nothing we can do to change that. Biologically, we are programmed to die. The forces that shaped us could have made it differently, but didn’t. So we can say that death is part of the cycle of life; or that the two are day and night in a revolution of the personal planet. The personality is produced by cumulative effect of our reactions to life, going right back to the fundamental experiences of being ‘one with mother’ and the inevitable separation and lack of satisfaction engendered. And so our individual lives began, never able to be reunited in that total oneness and belonging that brought us into the world.

Is this just a tragedy, or a longing that can take us, like the Prodigal ‘Son’, home? And what sort of maturity and home would that quest involve?

For what do we exchange this inevitable closeness with mother? Something wonderful, certainly: the ability to self-direct our lives – to go out there and ride that bicycle, change that battery–things which are mundane at that level, but very different if we see that there is a wholly new way of living associated with spiritual growth. That is the goal of real spirituality: personal transformation. What passes from this life at death is a different consideration, and not one within the scope of this post.

Let us continue the bicycle metaphor. We become competent riders. We can ride in a very straight line. We become qualified to ride, with thousands of others, along large, adult roads. The bicycle becomes more complex, heavy and sophisticated; and faster, ever faster. Riding along is filled with excitement, and we carry on letting the clever machine do more and more for us. One day, we don’t even notice that there is an us and a bicycle, we just see our lives as movement in a straight line, along the road followed by so many other bicycles.

Then, one day, we speed past a person of great interest who is cycling very slowly at the side of the road. We don’t know why she or he is of great interest, but we know they are… There is, perhaps, a calmness, or even a sense of adventure about them. They have an air of being slightly different, detached from the world of the straight line road we take for granted. The next day we see them again, but we have time to slow our bicycle down to stop next to them. They smile. They may even say they have been expecting us…

They invite us to ride with them, but, immediately, they race ahead and turn off onto a track that runs through a beautiful forest. We only know how to ride along the road, so, in a panic, we stop at the point where they left our road and stare at the wonderful strangeness of what’s happening. Were we not so bored with the straight line of the road, it might seem frightening. But it’s not frightening, it’s exciting, and it tastes of the same kind of newness as when we first got on our bike, knowing that the world of our self was about to get much bigger.

Other bikes and riders are flashing past us. Some may disapprove of us standing there, feet on the floor. We look along the track into the forest. Far ahead, the stranger is standing next to his bike but has turned back to face us. He is smiling. How can this be? Bike and rider are one, surely? To get off would be like… dying.

There is a lightness of laughter as we flex our feet, secure on the ground. All the riders with whom we were cycling have gone. There’s just us, the empty straight road and the enigmatic stranger on the path in the forest, inviting us to join him or her on that mysterious path.

Since we got on the bike, so many years ago, we have never been off it. We look at the figure in the forest and see that rider and bike can be separate things; that we can live perfectly well off the bike. More importantly, we can see that the massive cycling highway, with its shared straight line that misses so much of the beautiful land, is not the only way to travel in this wonderful landscape.

In a moment that will change our lives, we examine the mysterious stranger’s stance, and get off our own bicycle. For a second, we mirror his pose, then, we begin to walk towards him, pushing the bicycle, whose direction we now control. After a few steps, an idea comes to us: we get back on the bike and cycle towards him, achieving the power of the machine plus our own choice of direction, freed from the habitual highway. The very air around us sings with the intensity of what we are doing. Even without a destination, we are somewhere new… and it feels so much like home.

Like any metaphor, this can only be taken so far, but it contains many truths about human life and its spiritual psychology. More importantly, it contains, by analogy, the elements of how belief grows. The child we were believed that it was possible to ride a bike. In the hands of a good teacher – our mum or dad – we extended that into faith that we could do it, too. When we finally wobbled away into the world of riding, we took a step beyond faith into the world of knowing… The theoretical belief evolved into the empowering faith, which, with a deep breath, became the spiritual world of knowing.

In the last stage of our metaphor, above, we jumped, deliberately, to a different level of meaning. The child-become-adult riding along the shared highway became a higher level model for how our lives as a personality exist in parallel to others – the other riders on the highway. In this we had forgotten that we and the bicycle (the personality) were actually separate. Meeting the mysterious stranger showed us that there were other roads and tracks we could travel; without losing the carefully cultured ability to ride within our evolutionary arena of time, space and body.

So, what will you do when you step off your bike and begin to push it along a different track and into that wonderful forest? The first thing you will discover is that it was your strength that gave the bike its power. Smiling with this knowledge, you might get back on the bike and cycle towards the stranger on the path; not only free of the common highway, but able to use everything you have learned, before, in the service of your newfound spiritual freedom, and its ability to choose in a very different way.

This second, this moment, this now contains all these things; and they are real. You only need act with enough resolve, and in the right way, to enter that magical path into the forest of personal potential and real individual freedom… and for that, you will need a very deep breath. But you need not fear you will be alone…

One final thought to consider is this: when we experience that rush of knowing, and enter that new world, are we really adding something to our lives and selves, or are we recognising the truth of a world we never left, but just forgot? Have we become ‘bigger’ because we are nearer to home?

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His 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.

Principles of Fire (1) A faith in belief

The three Directors of the Silent Eye – Sue Vincent, Stuart France and myself – are usually the nucleus of a monthly ‘management’ meeting held at a friend’s house in Manchester. We have begun a process of reviewing the core principles of what we teach and under whose ‘guidance’ we create the four workshops held each year.

I highlight the word guidance, above, because these principles are so fundamental to what we have done since the launch of the Silent Eye School in 2013 that, for us, they have taken on a life of their own – becoming what the ancients would have known as ‘Virtues’ or channels of specific learning, alive in the combined consciousness of the three people involved. This is not to say that we ‘channel’ anything. The pretence, or assumption, of so-called channeling is rife in the world of esoteric teaching where it is plainly a tool of the egoic consciousness of certain individuals to attribute contact by themselves with higher worlds. When we say channel in the way I use it, above, we mean the coming alive of knowledge such that it expands its own presence in the mind and heart of the recipient of its truth…

Each week, the three of us receive and comment upon the home journals of the students (Companions, in our terminology; since we share a individual journey with each of them) as they travel through three inner landscapes within their own inner and outer consciousness. Over time, we have built up a picture of how our monthly lessons, combined with the personal tuition we provide, lead to a developing understanding of these living principles, that form the basis of our three-year teaching programme.

During our last monthly meeting (July 2018) we resolved to create a series of articles to provide our own ‘commentary’ on these subjects. These would be made available, via The Silent Eye blogs, to anyone interested in our Work. They would also be the basis of more detailed discussion with our Companions, as they progressed in their own studies. On the basis that they represent our most sincere attempt at documenting our own, developing understanding, we have named them: Principles of Fire. This does not equate them with alchemical fire – though there would be nothing wrong with that – but indicates how their personal evolution within each of us unfolds.

This is the first of those articles. The subject is the linked nature of Belief and Faith, and the power of the human consciousness to transcend the limitations of both.

Let us start with Belief.

Belief might be considered as the crystallisation of a pattern of thought which forms a nucleus around which each of us can learn to face something fundamentally bigger than ourselves. I might believe in God; or I might believe in something simpler, like Goodness in the human ‘soul’, or the idea that there is a deeper and separate level of my own consciousness that lies ‘beneath or inside’ what I view as my self. It does not matter what you believe in; the principles are the same.

As a student of the esoteric (hidden knowledge, contained and available within life) we will probably come to this by absorbing the views of someone else; either via a living teacher or a powerful book. Certain books, written from a perspective of true understanding, contain ‘seeds’ that are capable of germination when they fall in the right soil. The Bible speaks of such things in the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13). The soil is the consciousness of anyone who seeks deeper understanding with sincerity.

Whether we are influenced by a person or a book we may be affected in such a way that we feel an ‘expansion’ of our being. We identify that feeling with what, suddenly, becomes a new perspective. That perspective then become a belief.

This experience can be so profound that some people become a mental or emotional ‘warrior’ to defend and expound their new belief; yet all we have is the first glimpse of a path ahead of us. Yet, it is probably important that we react in this way. By doing this we generate a surge of emotion, and emotion, though capable of terrible inaccuracy, carries the kiss of our essence – that part of us that has a reality far deeper than the everyday personality.

We may persist with our new belief in one of two ways. The first we might call static. A static belief is one entirely received from somewhere else that carries the authority of another – including our parents. With this, we may wish to imprint the world with the rightness of this belief, such that we prove its correctness by stamping it on others. The word ‘zealot’ has historically been used to describe the barren nature of this behaviour.

The second way we might persist with our new belief is to carry it forward, experientially, regardless of others’ opinions. This brave step ignites something new in us, something that enlarges a sense of ‘me’ in a different way. We feel alive with the sense of empowerment in our search, and know that this comes from the fact that we are seeking a validation of our new ‘truth’ entirely from within ourselves and our corresponding experiences in life… which we suddenly find to be linked. The seed has germinated, the sense of excitement and freshness gathers pace. Though we may not know it, we are experiencing the first stages of a new type of life.

When we pass through this personal gateway, often referred to in mystical teaching as a ‘portal’, we enter the world of Faith. Within a state of faith, the elements of the belief take on a fiery life of their own, one in which there appears to be a direction of much deeper – and much more alive – understanding.

This direction is neither belief or faith, but points to something deeper, whose power is breathtaking. What that is will be discussed in the next of these articles on the Principles of Fire.


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His 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.

Forthcoming Silent Eye events:

Castles of the Mind workshop

Weekend of 14-16 September 2018.

Location: Northumberland

More information here.

Or email us at:

rivingtide@gmail.com

©Stephen Tanham

Of one mind?

Of One Mind fishesAA

To be of ‘one mind’: it’s an expression we don’t hear a lot of, nowadays, though it remains available to us in the language. Historically, it was used to describe an intensity of opinion, or – even stronger – belief, that something was so important that several key figures united in a single ‘front’ of solidarity behind whatever was being endorsed.

Perhaps our vision of truth has become dulled, and it is considered that there are few such ‘black and white’ moments… In line with the complexity of our world, it may be that nothing truly ‘is’ anymore, there are just shades of ‘isness’.

Over the ages, philosophers have ventured into the waters of the human psyche and grappled with the idea of single-mindedness. To be of ‘sound mind’ has always been important; and that implies being single in our interior nature. That unity expressed by a group of people being of one mind now applies, at least within the world of psychology, to a healthy state for the individual.

But are we ‘single’ within ourselves?

For example, we can resolve, going to bed, that we are will rise early and finish off that important piece of writing for which we need a snappy ending. We may reinforce that intent by assuring ourselves that famous writers often speak of the inspiration and clarity of mind to be found when the night’s rest has cleansed the mind.

And then, tired, we fall asleep…

But do we get up that extra hour early to avail ourselves of what we know to be advantageous? Usually not, if my experience of human nature is correct, including my own. So, how can one ‘part’ of us have such a clear resolution of what we want and need to do, and another part (the tired bit) decide to ignore it. I am reminded of the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ tarot card in which various mythic beings are seen rotating to a point of ‘uprightness’, in what fits well with the idea that only one of them can have precedence at any one time, though they all belong to the notional ‘self’.

RWS_Tarot_10_Wheel_of_Fortune

The Rider-Waite Wheel of Fortune card (source)

The key to examining this – as much as the mind can examine itself – is in the word ‘self’. We all consider that we have a self. It is our identity, a stable entity with a name and memories… and, a body, which, though constantly changing, gives us the sense of continuity of being. We can come to terms with biological ageing as long as we have an inviolate ‘self’ within this collection of cells.

And that’s where it gets a bit tricky…

We need to look at what we can count on: we have the memory of being a straight line of biological life through our ‘timeline’. We have a body that changes, and a name, but apart from that it could be argued that we are simply a point of perception that sustains an illusion that we have a single, undivided self, or mind or brain, call it what you will. Whatever name we use, we are very attached to it. Any lively debate between people beginning a study of the esoteric will throw up strong opinions, as the inviolate ‘self’ is encroached upon!

And yet…

And yet, that notion of the importance of being ‘single minded’ is deeply important to us; and that, like so much else that drives us, is based on a fear of it no longer existing… the reality of our existence suddenly ending. To counter this, we may postulate that there is a ‘heaven’ somewhere separate to life, perhaps where our kindnesses will be remembered and will outweigh our bad bits. The human psyche needs such edges or the fear might just become overwhelming. I do not mean to disparage religion, here. Religion helps many people to leave deeper and more self-less lives. I’m just examining the psychology of it all. If the idea of an eternal self is real, why is that which is considered ‘holy’ associated with the self-less, rather than the super-self?

Can we get closer to something ‘real’ by investigating how we might deepen this sense of a united self? Certainly, this has been the approach of many leading thinkers over the past two hundred years. They point out that the weakness of our personalities in holding to a true and single self is something we can examine, on a daily basis. The dispute comes, not in being able to study ourselves, but rather in terms of how we respond to what we can so easily find.

To make a study of ourselves we need to have a vantage point from which we can make these (initially hypothetical) observations. To create this interior space, we have to allocate it certain properties. The first of these is how we react. When we study our reactions we find that none are more powerful that the shock of seeing ourselves as we really are. When we find our constant contradictions to that ‘image of me’ that we carry around, we begin to wonder how we have lived a life that was so shallow in this respect. We can be objective about others, but when we turn that spotlight on ourselves… em.

This interior space, this ‘tower’, if you like, has to be a place in which only the truth is allowed. We can keep it secret, of course, so we don’t need to feel shame as we watch ourselves lying, for example. But, sooner or later, this internally honest viewing platform will begin to develop, for the want of a better word, its own interior feelings. One of them will be a quiet revelation that the truth has a profound power all of its own; and that it lights the way into a deeper state of real self that we had never even suspected was there…

It’s a gateway that we can only approach when we are truly ready… like the resolve that will get us up on a dark winter morning to finish that story…


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

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?

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

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?

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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)

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 51 – Butterfly Soup

Butterfly Watch for Nine Deadly Butterfly

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 51 – Butterfly Soup

.Alexandra.

I was ready when he arrived, fifteen minutes early to my twenty. My notebook was out on the small table, already open at the furiously scribbled summary. Two other objects were concealed beneath it. My carefully timed pair of coffees were just being delivered by Rose.

“Gotta hand it to the girl,” said Rose, tousling what is left of John’s hair as he bent to sit and could, therefore, do nothing about it. “Her timing’s getting a lot better…”

John grinned at the twin assault – one on his endangered vanity; the other directed at his habit of keeping me off-guard by being early to these meetings. But he said nothing.

I sipped my hot latté and did my snaky look at him. Still he said nothing.

“I have decided,” I began, brimming with plan. “That I need to recover some ground.” More coffee, then, “Having valiantly gained the initiative a few weeks ago, I have,” I pulled a face. “Lost the plot, somewhat…”

His smile broadened, but he remained steadfastly silent.

This was going well. “I had been considering things blow by blow, episode by episode,” I said. “whereas I should have been taking Heracles’ ‘year’ as a whole, single process – particularly the astrological significances.”

He finally spoke. “There’s only so much one can absorb on each visit. More is revealed each time… as it should be!”

He chuckled into his coffee, remembering how hot Rose made it and blowing it first, then sipping it gingerly. “And if you think Heracles is a challenge you should see the frown lines Noah’s Ark can induce!”

He sat back again, spreading his arms in a gesture of invitation.

We only had a forty-five minute window and I had a lot to say. I began, “The astrological progression is really a ‘container’ for the experiences of the aspirant. He or she begins, as does the astrological year, in March, in the sign of Aries.”

John was nodding, waiting.

“He bursts into his quest, ready to head-butt anything, full of the energy of new beginnings. Indomitable Soul that he is, he conquers the wild mares but then leaves his younger and less capable friend, Adberis, alone with the Mares and he is killed. In other words, it needed both Soul and Personality to tame the Wild Mares, and Heracles forgot that…”

I watched his lips break into an approving half smile, but he kept most of it suppressed.

Momentum. I was on a roll. A small sip of coffee and we were off onto the next bit. “In Taurus, he has to deal with the powerful lower nature of his physical self – with instincts, particularly sexual energy, delivering the bull to the care of a benign face of very focussed folk called Cyclopses…and points of single focus are very important as we’ll see when we get to Sagittarius, our latest foray…”

I was enjoying myself and had no intention of stopping. “He delves into that paradox of soul in body in Gemini, too, but becoming aware that his nature is twin, and that he has to accept that a new world is opening up.”

John was passive, smiling and sipping his drink.  He made no attempt to speak, enjoying my charge.

“In Cancer,” I continued. “he has to come to terms with the fact that he is a member of a family, a tribe, a nation and that these arenas have other souls in them, too; but he doesn’t lose sight of his true quest, and achieves the capture of the elusive doe of intuition.”

“He keeps his eyes on the Sun.” suggested John, interrupting for the  first time.

I thought about that and agreed. “Yes, despite the forces of the moon being in his way, he achieves his goal.”

More coffee, then, “In Leo, there’s a fight to the death with the Lion – but only so that something else can be born in the months that follow. In Virgo he makes a complete hash of the gift of new life offered by Hippolyte, the Queen of all the women, who, in a higher sense he should have united with rather than indulging his nasty habit of killing those he loved!”

Note to self, I thought. Stop obsessing about Heracles the butcher… “Comes with being a criminal lawyer,” I muttered into my coffee. John pretended not to notice. I continued, “So in Virgo he becomes conscious that the world of form – our physical world, is really nurturing something very special – something belonging to the Sun… or was that Son?” I let the words hang, proud that I had added them off-script, so to speak.

John had finished his coffee. I had barely started mine. He signalled Rose for two more. I smiled at his optimism and continued, “In Libra, he has to find the balance of power and the use of the mind to tame the respected but feared Boar and nearly stalls in his quest, stuck between the forces of the above and the below.” I paused. “And then we come to Scorpio – my rising sign…” I sighed.

“Scorpio?” John asked, studying me. “A problem?”

“Sex and death…”

“Beg pardon?”

“My best friend, who is a Scorpio, used to describe her life as a maze of ‘sex and death'”

“Nasty sting!” John pulled a face, obviously re-living a distant memory. I didn’t ask.

“Where Heracles has to go right down into the muck to pluck out and hold up the Hydra of illusion, thereby separating it from its swampy roots and killing it for good…”

“Phew…” said John, pretending to wipe his forehead. “Which brings us to Sagittarius, a noble sign if every there was one!”

“The archer on a white horse, or another Centaur, if you like, depending on whether you like your twin beings Divine and Human or Human and Animal.”

I could see that John wanted to add something important. I waved him on.

“”Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse‘ – Revelation,” said my uncle. “The King of Kings comes forward from heaven on a white horse…”

“To bring war and peace, as he does with the deadly Stymphalian birds.”

“And how does he defeat them?” Asked John.

“He used a set of cymbals, given to him by Athena, the Goddess of wisdom, to make a vibration–a pure noise so powerful that they were driven away for good.”

John leaned forward for his killer question, “So, if the wild mares were really untamed thoughts, what did these dangerous and noisy birds represent?”

I pulled the notebook to one side and looked at the old pocket watch I had left open on the table, sitting on the card. He had not noticed it.

I had timed it to perfection. I left what remained of my coffee and stood, bending to kiss the top of his surprised head in a mirror of our usual goodbye. But he wasn’t expecting the finger that sealed his questioning lips.

As I left the cafe, exactly twelve minutes early, I looked back, just once, through the cottage-style windows. He was looking at the watch, and the folded half of the butterfly card I had left beneath it.

As I turned to cross the road, I’m sure I saw a half-smile on his silent face.

(Image – composite by author)

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Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.