The rotating blade of meaning (2)

steve laptop green bag

In Part One, we looked at how Arthur M. Young, a brilliant engineer and inventor, was fascinated by the ‘act of knowing’, and determined that there were four stages to this central part of our consciousness. This can be illustrated by the following search for what might be termed a ‘geometry of meaning’ in the act of seeing something:

  1. There is a rectangular-shaped object across the room on the wooden floor. That means it belongs to the family (set) of things that share rectangular shapes, even if they turn out to be three-dimensional. This is an objective observation – it can be scientifically proven. Young termed it ‘objective general’ – many things are rectangular…
  2.  The surface of it is not a plain texture. It appears to be a heavy canvas material. Again this can be proved, but this facet of the object is specific. Only one of these actually exists – in this form. Other examples will be slightly different. My powers of knowing allow for this. They scan, rapidly, from the general to the specific. So far, I have a rectangular object made of heavy canvas. It’s an objective, specific thing; or, in Young’s accurate terminology, an objective, particular thing.
  3. Now, our perception of knowing takes a leap across the observer-observed divide. In reality, our act of partial knowing (so far) has really been observer-based, but the qualities of the observed object are sufficiently studied to allow us to attribute these objective qualities to it. But now we move into a different state of perception: one in which the observer projects qualities of their own onto the object. The object is a faded shade of green. The experience of ‘green’ is entirely subjective, that is, it is projected onto the object by me. Whatever objective qualities it has, they do not include my experience of faded green. This aspect of my object is therefore subjective and particular. Young called this type of subjective ‘projective’.
  4. Finally, humans like their objects to have a purpose. I can combine the knowledge I now have of this object and know it to be my laptop shoulder bag. In doing this, I have completed the fourfold cycle of knowing this object, whether seeing it for the first time or when I have been trying to locate it.

The table from the last post is included for clarity. These concepts need to be understood before we can move onto the revelations of what Arthur M. Young discovered next.

screenshot 2019-01-23 at 17.42.46

The above fourfold process is completely inclusive for any act of human knowing. As was said last time, science is only concerned with the first aspect: the objective general, the other three aspects it leaves to the philosophers… But the whole is what happens.

Arthur M. Young was fond of diagrams. In his work, he tried to explain using diagrams, and even actual examples of objects, such as pendulums, whenever he could. He wondered whether the above fourfold ‘map of knowing’ could be more usefully represented as a diagram… and the idea of a simple cross sprang to mind.

basic cross map for arthur young

The value of such a diagram would be to show more information than was available from the table. For example, it might show what relationship each of the four aspects had to each other – opposite on the cross-diagram could mean that they were opposite in nature…

We have assigned the attributes of general vs specific and projective (subjective) vs objective. Each aspect of our analysis has a unique combination of two of these – and they are all different permutations. We can see, for example, that the formal description of the object (objective, general) is the opposite of the function of the object (projective, particular). In like fashion, the Sense Data are the opposite of the Projected Values. Putting these into the cross diagram begins to show us the hidden relationships in our perception and knowing.

basic cross map for arthur young2

Because the diagram is logically true, we can deduce certain results from it. The first is that the above opposites are true; the second is that those values that are not opposite have a different relationship with each other. Since we are searching, ultimately, for a geometry of meaning, the angles are important to what follows: 180 degrees conveys opposition, whereas 90 degrees means that the aspects do not affect each other.

The deeper implications of this will be discussed in the next post.

Other posts in this series:

Part One, 

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

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




The rotating blade of meaning (1)


helicopter-meaning blog - 1

You have probably never heard of him. He was an engineer by training. He was the primary inventor and developer of the Bell helicopter, which made the promise of point to point flight a reality – though it had been discussed for centuries beforehand. This inventor, engineer and scientist was from an age when a few scientists could still challenge the overall approach of modern science – with its focus on the smaller and smaller, and lack of vision of the ‘whole’. They are almost gone as a species, so, in this series of posts, I’d like to pay tribute to Arthur M. Young and explain in non-technical language how important his work was… and is.

He was also, and unusually for a scientist, a master astrologer…

Despite being skilled in engineering and mathematics, Arthur Young returned to university as an adult to study Quantum Physics, recognising that here was something that completely altered the way we should visualise the world. He was fascinated by the consciousness potential of the relationship between the ‘observer’ and the ‘observed’, something that science had tried to ignore for centuries. This dismissal was brought up, sharply, by Quantum Theory, which proved that only the presence of the observer allowed the presence of the object to be ‘measured’. In other words, proved it was there… but not alone.

Helicopters make people nervous. They are  heavy objects, oddly shaped and dangerous looking. When flying, they would plunge to the ground if the massive rotor, above, stopped working or broke. We can think of a plane as being safer because it has fixed wings that give it the theoretical capability of gliding back to Earth. Most of them don’t. For both planes and helicopters, the focus is on making sure that they are reliable and controllable in a failsafe way, and, for helicopters, that controllability is a very complex thing…

Given Arthur Young’s involvement in the development of the small, commercial helicopter, it’s not surprising that he was focussed on this central aspect of control. We will see, later, how this led to startling revelations that bridged physics and philosophy.

Consider the opening photograph. It shows an Art Deco style wall lamp, caught in a beautiful moment of rainbow colour coming into the living room from a clear winter’s day, outside. It has its own beauty, and that is what draws us to it. It has a complex shape that can be considered at differing levels of detail. Some of these details (properties) are objective – they can be measured by science and classified into such properties as material and shape.

Some of the properties are subjective – they only mean something to us – the observer. If I wanted to break down the ‘stages’ of knowing the wall-light lit by the rainbow, I might deliberately ignore the feeling of beauty and its minutely shifting colour, and examine only the overall form of the object. Its fundamental shape is an inverted triangle. I know enough about the delicate glass from which the ‘saucer-shaped’ leaves are made to be concerned that they are easily broken. With that small set of information, I feel I know the material content of the object; I could describe it to someone else and they would get a good picture in their minds.

The world of science is concerned only with this latter description: the inverted triangle – the form of the object, and the chemical material from which it is made. Arthur Young called this the formal description. Science is focussed on this level of knowing because is the only one that is objective: that is, not dependent on how we see something (bad mood, poor eyesight, colour-blindness, etc.) Using this formal description, science can categorise the object, and make it part of a common set of things – a very important process.

But the human, awakened to the form and beauty (or not) of the world around them, has a much richer experience. I understand the objective nature of the inverted triangle and the delicate chemical composition of the fragile leaves, but I’m staring in wonder at the texture of the glass and how it is reflecting the rainbow. I lean closer and find that the glass has a faint but definite smell to it. It’s clinical but not unpleasant.

These are subjective impressions. Science could never reproduce them because they belong to me, to you, to anyone with sense organs. We all experience these things differently, but we can try, with language, with photography,  writing, art or poetry to convey that this is not simply an inverted triangle made of fine glass; it is a rich experience and unique in the entire history of the universe… You could experience something similar, but the fine details would belong only to each of us, differently–and they would change the event. We seldom consider this power we have – be a unique observer of the universal beauty all around us. We, whose bodies are made from the atoms created by ancient exploding stars, must come close to our zenith when we find such beauty and stop our everyday consciousness to ‘be’ with such it.

Science is not deficient in its lack of concern for this; it’s simply that the full experience of the observer cannot be reduced to numbers… The collective mind that created numbers can never be subservient to them.

So far we have encountered the formal description of the object: the inverted triangle and the chemical properties of fine glass. We have also used our sense organs to experience the way the rainbow light shimmers on the petals of the lamp, and we have even smelled the glass. These sense impressions come from the object. They may be slightly different to each of us, but the properties from which they issue belong, also, to the object. Our object therefore possesses a formal description and specific sense impressions. The formal description could be shared, using shared language or mathematics, with anyone. The sense impressions could not, but could be likened to something else in our experience.

Step back and the experience of being an observer has two main aspects. There is a ‘me’ and an ‘it’. The experience of the wall lamp is deemed to be ‘out-there’, but the knowing resides ‘in-here’. I am helped, by the formal description, to recognise or locate the object, even if I’ve never been in that room.

Young said that, to realise the process and the power of knowing it is vital to (initially) separate our aspects of experience in this way. When we consider the received information and the sense data from the object, two more things happen in our perceptive mind. The first is that we place a value judgement on the experience – perhaps I am in awe of the beauty of the rainbow on the lamp. Without rationally considering it, I feel moved by an emotion, a kind of joy that this rare impression of living perfection is present.

The second ‘in-here’ aspect is the purpose of the object. In this case it’s not to show off rainbows, but to give light when evening comes. In other circumstances, my knowing of the lamp would have been part of the inventory of the capabilities of the room. Arthur Young named this the function. These two ‘in-here’ aspects belong to the observer, not to the object. We project them onto the experience based on our learning. Young called this kind of aspect projective, and the aspects belonging to the object, alone, he called objective. Where something in an aspect was specific, he used the term particular; where it had a shared nature, he named it general.

If we unravel the above example, there emerges a process of incremental perception which, conceptually, looks a lot like the opening of the famous Russian dolls:

  • Aspect one, which is an inverted triangle shape, made of a chemical structure of fragile glass.
  • Aspect two is the contents of the above plus the sense impressions belonging only to the objective nature of the inverted triangular shape (its colours, shades and smells)
  • Aspect three is the subjective experience of all the above plus the feeling of beauty and awe I have when my attention and perception is captured by the occasion.
  • Aspect four would be all the above plus the function of the wall-lamp, which, in this case, has been subverted by the unexpected rainbow… exactly what happens when we open ourselves to the possible in real life!

These four aspects therefore comprise: formal description, sense data, value and function. The first two are objective (‘out-there’), the second two (‘in-here’) are projective (subjective).

We can put these into a table for easier reference:

screenshot 2019-01-16 at 10.53.44

The creation of this was not a casual work. Arthur Young tested it against all the situations he knew of, in both a scientific and philosophical sense. He determined that it was a universal description, an ‘anatomy’ of how we perceive and how we ‘know’. These four stages – aspects – of knowing were at the heart of being human, they were not only the containers of what we learned, they were how we learned.

Four was an interesting number and features predominantly in the ancient mysteries. ‘Fourness’ is a key part of how mankind has conceived of the universal divisions of experience. Fourness is one of the keys to Astrology, in the form of the ‘Elements’ of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. For Arthur M. Young, an astrologer as well as a scientist, the notion of fourness at the centre of human experience was about to take him on a mind-expanding journey…

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

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



The Modern Mysteries

The ‘mysteries’ have been with mankind as long as we have existed. They are a collection of paths that take us inwards; restoring a sense of self deeper than that which reacts, and showing us that mankind is much more than a biological animal – though animals, and their focus on the ‘now’ have much to teach us, too.

The reason these paths work is that we are more than we appear to be. The reactive nature of the self-in-the-world, the personality, fixes it into a certain relationship with its world. This is vital for survival but not so for our potential evolution. Mankind is not a finished project. Nature can only take us so far, beyond that point we have take responsibility for our own self-development, and the power for this comes from within. To begin this, we have to loosen the grip of the world on our reactive self. When this is done, a new space emerges within our mind and heart.; a quiet, creative place that feels wholly our own. Unlike the everyday world, our energy is not robbed in this place, in fact the former reactions, seen in their true perspective, actually feed the strength of this private chamber… there is a bubbling of laughter, a lightness of being.

Developments in psychology over the past hundred years have given teachers of the spiritual a powerful vocabulary to describe the nature of the reactive self, the self-in-the-world. We see that our essential self is not what has grown up, like layers of paint, around our experience of the world. For the first time, we see that what is truly ‘us’ is not only difficult to define, but also not the layers of painted self-consciousness that have developed, year on year, since we came into the world.

At this point we begin to sense the weight of the baggage we carry. As the time spent on self-study lengthens, we see that we can let go a lot of what we thought was us, and delight in the rush of powerful energy when the unnecessary is let go. As the reactive gravity is released, we begin to sense an entirely new relationship with the world in which we live – the outer world… or is it?

With the letting go of what we thought we were, we enter a new field of confidence. This confidence is reinforced when events in our lives seems to conspire to teach us each next step that we need to learn. We look up at the sky – inner and outer and ask, “Did that really just happen?” And it did, and it goes on happening as the door of perception opens onto true relationship and we come re-evaluate our whole lives.

There comes a point where we know enough to show others parts of it. We feel a honourable debt and a desire to do this. We experiment; finding what techniques work for us and which don’t. The personality is not done away with, rather it is realigned in the service of this inner relationship – spirit will do nicely as a word, but there are many more words that can serve us well. We may even change our vocabulary as we speak to different audiences. We need have no fear, for each challenge brings its own way of speaking and showing – if we remain true to the inner vibration, which, day by day, is becoming us.

These, then, are the mysteries. They are not, nor have ever been, bound up in a fixed set of teachings, They belong to all of us, they are our birthright. They are the new world we have always had. Only the self-in-the-world was ever in the way of this, and now it serves something higher and more noble as we reach for the sky.

©️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

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

Identified flying object

Indentiy ConsoleAA

One of the key understandings in mystical thought is the idea of identity. Words morph their meaning over time, and identity is a classic case.

We might think of the police knowing the ‘identity’ of a person they want to speak to. We would find it in fashion magazines for both genders in the context of a garment to reinforce our identity in line with a progressive trend.

Both these show how the word identity means either a unique description or a close bond through some sort of ‘mapping’ of properties by adoption. The central theme is that of a chosen closeness. If I buy a new car and feel very good when I drive it, I’m identifying with an object that adds to my identity and makes me feel good.

The car analogy is a good one – and a very good way of studying one of the 21st century’s fault lines – in the sense that, if ten miles down the road, someone deliberately races past our new sports car, we may well feel aggrieved that we have been deliberately ‘slighted’ and that our inflated identity, centred on the car, has been wounded.

At such times, if we could step back and imagine we were flying above our shiny new car and watching the whole drama unfold, we might be a little ashamed by how we chased after the errant teenager and nearly caused a crash by proving that our new vehicle was superior.

It’s easy to insert the word ‘ego’, here. We all know the difference between driving our shiny new car and the theoretical view from above it. In the latter we are detached because we can see a bigger picture. In the former we are somehow compressed into a smaller space where the red mist of anger is a frequent consequence.

Most drivers have had that ‘red mist’ moment; particularly men, with their overdoses of testosterone. Young male drivers have an horrific accident rate precisely because, after yearning to drive for years, they suddenly get wheels and have to prove to the world that they have always been a better driver than anyone else… or, at least, their mates.

When recalling full story of accidents of this nature, the accused often say they did not know what came over them; the red mist descended and they went to war. Going to war is a good link to what’s underneath of all this, and we go to war for our country – because it’s a primary part of our identity.

The path to self-knowledge begins with such constructs. When I see that my stupid reaction to the teenager overtaking me was a reduction in consciousness, despite the elation beforehand, I might begin to investigate how such identification is at the root of many of the negative things I do, and the cause of much of the energy loss that I might suffer on a daily basis.

This type of identification is inherited from lower levels of our evolution – but not too far back. In anything but an age of true plenty, the possession of objects of visible status was a sign of rank and personal worth. You were important if you had them. Modern advertising works very hard to keep this alive in our societies, and the cult of celebrity is an even worse example of how someone here today and gone tomorrow can be all but worshipped; as can everything they are seen to drive and wear…

When we have to add objects to our selves for that good feeling, we are showing that the self does not have enough worth. We want the object because it will signal to the world that ‘I’ have grown along some axis of importance. In this way we see that much of what we are taught, by education, by family and by employment, is based upon an inherited sense of worth that is not related to the unique and precious self with which we came into the world and this life. That self is taught that it can feel ‘bigger’ if it acquires ‘classy’ things. But such objects do not actually make us feel a lot better – In fact the gain is often way out of proportion to their true cost.

There is a paradox at work here, and the shock generated when this is seen can be, and should be, life-changing…

Here’s the first part of the shock: the things we use to define ourselves need not be physical objects at all. We can be attached to our likes and dislikes, our hatred, our politics, our favourite food… or even our suffering. Identification, seen from the most powerful height above that speeding car, is a label saying ‘this is me’. The flow of life’s events, over which we have little or no control constantly brings us up a filmstrip of images, smells, tastes and other sensations. This filmstrip was originally seen by us the infant as a passing show. We did not attach ourselves to its display until we became more conscious of the link between ‘me’ and that filmstrip. But, and here’s the key, we had to be taught that – by others whose lives were already bound up with the film. Once tied in this way, any change to what is being ‘viewed’ is capable of taking us into sadness, anger, hatred or a dozen other negative states.

The two perspectives are radically different: one is that life is happening; the other that life is happening to us.

To break free of this, whilst still retaining the hard-won discrimination of adulthood, is the work of mystical development, under whatever banner. To break the link with the filmstrip’s negative power we need to open up a space within ourselves and move into it, in the sense that, from then on, we watch both the filmstrip and our own reaction to it – without allowing identification to take place. We watch the flashy car, we register it as a quality thing, but we do not allow that habitual effect of ‘yes, that’s me’ or ‘I would be a better me if I had it’. We do this because we know the real value of an awakened Self.

To do this is to be at odds with the world, to a certain extent, though that can be viewed with humour, too.  But in a time when the world appears to be on the edge of insanity, might not being at a slight angle to it be the saner option?

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

©Stephen Tanham, Silent Eye School of Consciousness.

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee, part 29 – The Killing of Teachers


Somewhat disappointed in myself for last week’s late arrival, I am here early, to give me time to chat to Rose. That darling lady, who runs the tea room, has watched and supported our craziness for some time.

Craziness? I don’t really think so … though, when I get off that train in London each Monday, and stiffen back into my world – what I now think of, in a dramatic reversal of attitude, as my other world – I feel I’m entering the real craziness; and that this gentle, if often dramatic probing of life and truth is the reality …

I’ve changed in all sorts of ways, some of which I haven’t told John about. I want him to notice, and I’m sure he does, but, I’ve toned down my formal dress and made plainer most of my accessories. In this there is a slight emulation of his simplicity – though I know that, in his former business world, he would have shared the crisp uniforms of indulgent excess … He’s never asked me to do this, but it’s a kind of respect for the transition he must have gone through when he walked away to do ‘his thing’ as he often puts, it; smiling mischievously at me.

Looking at the time, I finish my friendly conversation with Rose and pick up our coffees from the counter. I refuse her kindly offer of help, and take them to the small table in the sea-facing corner – the place of our meetings. He arrives as I put down the steaming mugs.

“Morning Alexandra,” he says, softly. Giving me a peck on the cheek.

“Morning John.” My smile is a beam. Life is good.

He launches straight in, “Hercules–Heracles, we decided, didn’t we? How are you getting on with him?”

I consider my response carefully. I’ve been doing my homework and it’s thrown up more questions than answers. “Twelve …” I let it hang in the air. I know it’s important.

“Ah yes,” he says, not mockingly. “Twelve – a fascinating number … four times three, and three times four.” He sips his coffee, watching me; and then, when I say nothing, he does one of his time-stopping things: he picks up three small packets of sugar from the bowl in the middle of the table, tears the heads off two of them in an exaggerated gesture, and smooths out the deliberately spilled contents across the inset glass top of our small, round table. The remaining packet he keeps in his left hand as he sips his coffee.

I can’t see her, but I know that, behind me, Rose is planning his slow death …

“Show me twelve …” he says, flickering his eyes at me, snake-like. For a second, I wonder how many other nieces in the world are treated like this? I stare at the surface of white sugar. What does he want?  Do I write the numerals 12 in the crystals?  No, he wants something deeper than that. I hold my chin in my hands, staring the sugar, while doing my best to empty my mind, letting the moment speak; enabling something that is already there to reveal itself … within that calmed now, it does, and with a smile, I draw a near-perfect circle in the white sugar.

I look up and he nods.  “How many now?”

“Not twelve …” I’m teasing him; and enjoying it. “But it could be twelve – or as many as you want there to be … the circle is infinitely pliable, after all.”

“Good answer,” he says, nodding down at the sugar. “A cycle of perfection and completeness, then, no matter how big its circumference?”

“Like the year – having twelve months and then beginning again …”

“With the four seasons?” he asks, reasonably.

Something tells me to draw a equal-armed cross in the circle. I do so, dividing it into four quadrants. “Spring, summer, autumn, winter …” I say.

John leans forward to hover his hand anti-clockwise over the newly quartered circle. “And who else might work here?” he asks.

I look down at the symbol I have drawn. I imagine it divided into the full twelve, with the quadrants superimposed as they are. Something pulls me to the answer.

“Why … astrologers, I suppose? They share the use of a seasonal circle, don’t they?”

“They do indeed,” he replies , then adds. “In a greater and a lesser sense,”

“Greater and lesser?”

“The twelve periods of the year, which we know as the signs of the zodiac; and the long ages of the evolution of life on Earth, which is known as the precession of the equinoxes, which takes twenty-six thousand years to transit the whole zodiac and just over two thousand years to transit each of the signs.”

“The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius …” I hear myself saying, smiling at a memory of a song from my uncle’s own youth that he used to sing to me as a child.

“Indeed,” he says, also smiling,”Though, in truth and mathematics, it has yet to dawn.”

“We’re still in the great age of Capricorn?” I ask, keen to show off my pub quiz sequence of the signs.

“Almost …” he fights a kindly smile. “Remember that the greater cycle goes backwards, so, if Aquarius is next, then we are in the age of …?”

“Oh, I see – so that would be Pisces?”


“The age of the fish,” I add, grasping at some of the deeper pub facts.

“And the fish was one of the key symbols of?”

Suddenly it hits, me … This is not just an intellectual exercise. What he’s starting to describe is the happening of events on a vast scale, something like the wave that we discussed so long ago, that provides great energy and superhuman challenges … and the effects are repeated, at smaller and smaller scales as the same laws empower and challenge the evolution of more and more detailed forms of consciousness.

I cannot help say the word he’s expecting, “Christ …”

“Christ, a figure that some would call The Saviour of the Age … an age that is now coming to an end.”

I think of a single vast circle, containing within it many other circles which share the same sectors – the same seasons of energy and challenge as deeper evolution is urged forward. I think of all the circles centred on the same point in the middle, of a rippling outwards to form the ‘space’ within which it all happens, and then a return home to the centre, each circle playing its essential part, each circle as important as any of the others, despite its apparent ‘smallness’. He watches, perfectly still …

“So you lead with twelve … and Heracles?” He lets the silence be the question. Into that perfect space comes the sentiment for which I’ve been fishing.

“So the twelve labours are the generic – the cosmically derived – labours we must all face on the way to a higher level of consciousness?”

His reply is tinged with humility, “It is my belief that they were constructed that way … but the only way to test that is to bring them to life – your life …”

I sit back to think, and finish my coffee. While I am doing this, he leans slightly forward and asks, “What did Hercules do to deserve his labours?”

There are many answers, depending on the bias of the historian involved, but they all agree on one thing.

“He killed people close to him …”

He leans closer, and whispers, “In one very wise version, he killed his teachers …” He lets it hang in the air.

“Killed his teachers?” I sit there, mute. The thought of killing one’s teacher is appalling … and then I see, between the stark words, that there is another meaning to this. I want to share it with him, but he’s stood up and gone to fetch a pan, brush and wiping cloth from Rose, who is grinning at the counter, pleased at his seeming contrition.

When he comes back, I’m ready. In his hand, alongside the cleaning tools, is the remaining bag of sugar. I take it from him and look deeply into his kind eyes.

“Independence,” I say. “My journey and only mine …”

Matching his earlier violence, I rip the head off the sugar and pour it onto the drawn circle, scattering my symbolic atoms into the space of creation, freeing them from all conditioning patterns.

He says nothing, just bends to plant a kiss on the top of my head, then hands me the pan and brush.

“Your first labour, then …”


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

Steve Tanham is a 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 2012, and, having persuaded Sue Vincent to . . .

Read more (500 words)

Lost on the Horizon

Don’t think that you

have seen this edge before

Don’t count the times

 your boots

have walked

and crunched upon

its sands


Don’t try to catch

 the sleek caress

of countless grains of dust

Blown on a wind

that never

kissed your face


But now demands it must



walking tall,

stare into space

between the sky and land

And suffer Geb’s distress

At lust and longing

for his Nut

and know

eternity’s demand


So dare to stride

between the lines

and with each passing mile

leave past behind

To gain a place

just out of time

to hang

in timeless space

a while …


Lost in the vastness

of that sky

embrace your tiny fall

and by your truth

the reach of self

in spinning

sees it all.


©Image and words, copyright Stephen Tanham 2015

The She Sentinel


The She Sentinel


A small festival, where pilgrims, 

unknown to themselves, climb me

Clutching children, 

adorned with picnics, 

They play

And round my ragged peak, 

they stand and point their heads

For the length of a heartbeat

And wonder . . .


But it was not always thus


Over many years he changed my face

Wrought outer magic on my hillside

Created wonder and even let the pilgrims in

Though they were ragged then, and poor


But he never saw my heart

Though his wife would stand and stare

And wonder . . .


But it was not always thus


In older times

Erased now from their memories

When brother fought with brother

And the blood of the kin spilled like water

On my soil

They lit a beacon here

To warn that killing approached

In the time when the head 

Began to rule the heart


And even then

Some, sweating in bloodied armour

Would stop and stare

Or, decorated, stop their steeds

And pause a while

And wonder


But it was not always thus


But of the ancients, I will not speak

For you do not have the ears that hear


And now you . . .


And now you amuse me

For six days you have risen at dawn

To walk your personal trail to me

To stand and stare


But you dare to do this with your heart


I wonder, will I let you in?


Perhaps, tomorrow, when

My sister the wind

Says she will carry the water

That floods the land


Then we will see if you have

The ancient intent

And then, perhaps . . . 


It will not always have been thus.


©Copyright Stephen Tanham 2015

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee – Part Ten

“Tell me about the ‘wave’?” Alexandra asked, excitedly. “I get the idea of the now, though I think that’s something we all take for granted; but the wave sounds like something to be discovered, something fundamental to existence . . .”

I sipped my coffee and looked back into those excited, bright eyes, and considered how to fill her with the sense of joy that the idea of the wave always generated in me.

I began slowly, almost hesitantly, “The wave is the substance of the now; just like the soul has been called by some the substance of consciousness.”  I watched as she absorbed this challenging concept. Both these ideas were seldom comprehensible to the beginner, and yet, in what the Buddhists called ‘Beginners Mind’, lay the simplicity of comprehension that could make great leaps through not being bogged down by the weight of accumulated thinking. To the Buddhists beginners mind was not something belonging solely to the beginner, but a state to be sought by all of us.

She sat back and drank some of her coffee. Her brilliant mind was working hard at this. Eventually, she said, “So this wave, which is the now, radiates from the centre – in this case the centre of the enneagram, giving us this moment in time, presumably, in which we can choose to live . . .?”

“We have no choice but to live on the wave, there is nothing else. The choice is whether we give it the attention it deserves and stop worrying about the phantom constructs of the process of thought.”  It was as direct as I could make it. I could see her reeling slightly from the mental force behind it.

She was gentle in her reply, sensing that these concepts were at the heart of what she found fascinating about our whole direction of investigation. “I can see that in our circle of the enneagram the wave originates from the centre and radiates outwards . . .” She paused, then, “But how does this relate to the character types we have been discussing on the outer rim, the Nine on the perimeter of the circle?”

It was an excellent question. Now, I had to reach into the now, my wave, and see what lay there, what could be taken at its most potent and used, with gratitude, to put more light onto the subject. Suddenly, it was in front of me – a perfect analogy for Alexandra’s vast and educated mind.

“The whole of the inside of the enneagram’s circle is a sea,” I said, leaning forward. “Around the outside are nine islands. Parts of this sea are calm and parts of it – the outer regions – are stormy. Life sweeps us from the centre, on our own wave, to the extremities; and the journey makes us fearful and changes us.”

She sipped her coffee, draining the cup, then smiled at me in a very beautiful way. “Full fathom five my father lies . . .” She winked, enjoying the allusion to The Tempest.

She had found the trail which had been in my mind seconds ago. “Perfect!” I beamed back at her. So, now, shipwrecked on a foreign island you meet–?”

She was close to giggling, again, with the excitement of real discovery. “Ummm . . . a wise old man named Prospero, his daughter, Miranda, and a beast of a man called Calaban.”

She was great. The barrister’s mind had retrieved the context, swiftly – doing what minds do best. I added more encouragement, “This is not specific to the enneagram, of course, but here you have a set of human characters which represent what we might call the ‘levels’ or centres of our lives: Prospero, the wise but impotent old man, who we could rightly say might represent the intellect; Miranda, his daughter who could be both heart and soul; and finally Calaban, the very potent but unregenerate ‘savage’ who is the very essence of instinct, appetite and human energy!”

“But these are not the ‘types’ we drew around the enneagram’s circle?” she asked, certain of her ground.

“No,” I responded, nodding my approval. “These are what we might call the vertical elements of each; the Nine are something entirely different – and each of them has the three levels, or centres in which their humanity – in all its vulnerability – is focussed.”

“A whole cast of players . . . ” she said, softly, speaking to the inner stage she had just discovered.

“Yes . . . and all unique to the wave that washed us ashore, that continues to wash us ashore, to the land of exile of our outer facing lives!”

She stood up. I looked at my watch and reached to get my raincoat – it was raining hard outside; not unusual for a Monday in May.

“No! Stay!” Her hand came down softly on my shoulder. “I need another coffee. You need to stay here and tell me more,” she grinned. “In return for yours . . .”

“But your train?” I laughed at her departing back.

“To hell with the train!” she laughed, her heeled feet dancing across the cafe’s wooden floor as she made her way to the counter.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.


Contact details and an outline description of the Silent Eye School are on the other pages of this blog and via the website at

Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee – Part Seven

“So the circle of stations on top of your cheesy cylinder are the outermost layer of something?”

Alexandra was in fine form. Outside the coffee shop, the first real day of spring-like weather was in full flow, despite the early hour.  We had decided to celebrate this visible end of winter by sitting outside.

I had bought the coffee. Alexandra had brought us a single daffodil around which I had unceremoniously wrapped my watch. She had stared at the gesture but said nothing. The mixture of technology and nature had her bemused.

“They are, indeed, the outer layer of something,” I replied, stroking my finger over the delicate edge of the daffodil’s petals and marvelling at the power of the wave to put into our hands exactly what we need for that point in time.

“A bit like a flower?”

She had caught the inference. “Yes,” I replied. “Just like a flower”

“And we are the flower, with all our petals being the numbers around the enneagram . . ?”

I said nothing, just nodded into her excited eyes. She had always loved the intellectual chase of such things. Becoming a barrister had simply cemented what she had always been good at.

“So the outer – upper – layer of your cheesy cylinder-enneagram is the layer of outer petals of our own flower?”

“Our own unique flower – and sometimes these flowers aren’t so pretty . . .” I let that one hang, watching her digest its implications. “In fact,” I added. “The enneagram is really a flower in reverse, with the most beautiful bits hidden, but otherwise sharing the same principles – the same soil, we might say!”

“Hidden?”  She mused on that and sat back, sipping her coffee.

“Hidden in the way that, say, a root is . . .”

I unfolded the computer drawing I had done for her. For the first time, it had a complete list of the ‘sins’ in the penultimate layer of the circle. Each of what I had called the ‘stations’ had been filled in. Before her hungry eyes, there was now a perfect circle of information; and a set of frustratingly empty ‘petals’ to the outside of them.

“But the sins aren’t at the edge!”

“Quite right . . . that’s because modern esoteric psychology has come up with an extension to the sins which gives us a great insight into how each type of person looks at the world – their own world.”

She considered each of my words carefully. There were several new ideas in there, and I watched her tease apart the ends of the threads.

“Each type of person?”

“Yes, although the flowers that we are – cheesy or not – are unique, we all fall into certain types; and these particularly affect the overall way we look at the world.”

“And there are nine types, I assume?”

“Exactly so, each made up of a set of reactions to our infant life.”

“Infant life? So this is all about childhood?”  She was leaning forward to be closer to me. The coffee was forgotten.

“Well, yes and no.” I sat back and, infuriatingly, sipped some of my own coffee, before continuing, “Where this type – the outer petals of our flowers – came from is most certainly our infancy. But how we use them to get back is very much about adulthood.”

She was looking at the time. There were only minutes left, and she had about a hundred questions. I could see her breathing had quickened, as she sifted what she wanted – needed – to know before she got onto that weekly train to London.

“Get back;  you said get back . . .”

I nodded. She had picked on the very sentiment I had hoped she would. “Yes, get back . . .”

“To where?”  She was putting her things back into her black leather handbag; watching the time in an agony of too little information.

“Where do the best signposts take any of us?” I asked, playing the most powerful card I would ever have with this lovely lady.

“Tell me . . . please?”

Home,” I said softly, looking into her hazel eyes. “Home.”

She was long gone when the waitress brought me the bottle of mineral water and the small, turned wooden vase. I had spotted it, earlier, in the glass case at the back of the cafe. The owners ran a display of work for sale by local artisan painters and craftsmen; and the little vase had exactly met my immediate need.

Life was important – in all its forms, and it’s always been my belief that those with intelligence have a duty to protect and nurture it.


Nine Deadly Sins with Coffee is usually published on Thursdays.

All images and text ©International copyright, The Silent Eye School of Consciousness, 2015.

Contact details and an outline description are on the other pages of this blog and via the website at