The Faces of Shiva (2) Twisting Democracy

 

(Montage image by the author. See base of post for source of Shiva element)

The ‘perfect storm’ is a phrase that has entered our common vocabulary; that coming together of events to create a maelstrom of change and, often, terror – the terrorist attack of ‘9/11’ was a vivid example. These events change our world. We need a new word that describes the way we can look back at catastrophes and dissect them with great insight, yet seem unable to react in time to change them when they are happening.

The fact that our societies cannot fend off these ‘attacks’ in time to change them is part of a bundle of risk calculations made by the perpetrators.  They rely on the ‘attack’ being something new, something of a different order to what has gone before, and which therefore will escape the safety mechanisms already in place. By following this plan, they calculate that the plurality and slowness of the response (of democracy) will dilute any ability to frustrate what they are carrying out.

They also rely on poor education; the inability to see through over-simplification of important and life-changing decisions. Few things are black and white, but we have to work to distinguish things in colour…

Politically, we could dispense with the slow and measured response of democracy and instigate a small or very small group of controllers – this would be fascism. Fascism always seems to be attractive in the face of a crisis; that’s why generating a false crisis is usually the first move of the proto-fascist. Decisions with depth need the kind of thinking through that makes things slow, and depends upon the goodwill of the people and the maturity of the judiciary.

Fascism is not a political party. It’s a state of mind that preys upon the under-educated. It follows a well-tested curve to power; something I will write about in the final blog of this series. It is a mistake to think that the snake of fascism ever dies. Its mechanisms are always funded by the super-rich, who need to damage the power of ‘reasonableness’ in order to get the sweeping changes they need for yet more power. This is key: while a society’s centre of reasonableness holds, the extremists cannot gain traction.

The year 2016 saw two examples of a dynamic and decisive use of a new technology for the manipulation of political power: the US presidential elections, and what has become known as the ‘Brexit’ referendum in the UK- though, at the time, ‘Brexit’ was the name of the well-funded camp that wanted a second national referendum on the issue – the first was in 1975, which confirmed that the British nation wanted to stay in Europe.

I am not writing here about the results; the winners of the elections. The idea of democracy is that people vote for what they want. I am discussing the advanced methods by which democracy is manipulated; and the step-change in power of those who now control mass opinion. Historically, newspapers and television have done this, but the massive growth of social media has changed the playing field across the world – particularly the use of Facebook data, something acknowledged by Facebook itself.

During the start of the second UK referendum, I was first alerted to what was going on when a full-screen image appeared on my Mac over my morning coffee. There, in an exact match of the colours and fonts used by the UK’s Labour Party, was a political advert saying that Jeremy Corbin, the leader of the Labour Party, was against Britain staying in the European Union. The content of the Facebook ad was subtly worded, such that it was the right side of the law, but the inference: that Corbin had endorsed the ‘Brexit’ campaign, was entirely false. Subsequently, it was discovered that there were hundreds of variants of each advert, each specially tuned to the exact political parameters of the recipient. Ask any psychologist: people give a lot away about themselves when they fill in the boxes on fun surveys like ‘What kind of avenging princess are you?’

Surprisingly few people know the full story of how Facebook data was used during that period in the UK and in America. It was estimated that the personal social-political media profiles of over 50 million Americans were held by Facebook and legally (though deviously) extracted by an English firm – Cambridge Analytica – to be used in the election that brought Donald Trump to power. Exactly the same process was used to sway the million and a half voters needed to tip Britain into the present chaos of ‘Brexit’, as per my Labour Party example, above.

Cambridge Analytica ceased trading following the exposure of its methods by journalists not politicians. It was a runaway business success to that point. Only social pressure and the refusal of other companies to be seen to be customers drove it out of existence. In the end, much of that boils down to the pressure exerted by institutional shareholders, which points to one effective way of tacking such abuses.

It would be a mistake to assume that the methods developed by Cambridge Analytica have faded away in the aftermath. Facebook did nothing illegal, but – particularly in the US – is deeply fearful of new laws that would classify its screen-based output as ‘publishing’ and bring its content under the same legal and political scrutiny as conventional publishers. Such a move would dramatically affect the growth and share price of the ‘Tech’ giants in the social media world. Just as significantly, it would give them a task that they were, technically, not yet able to perform. The sheer volume of content means that even an army of human monitors could not deliver the control needed. Only advanced AI methods can do this – coupled with much faster follow-on response than they have shown previously.

The recent teen suicide scandal in the UK, where the Google subsidiary Instagram was seen to be hosting videos that promoted the practice, has highlighted the slow response to present crises, despite a stated willingness on the part of the Tech giants.

Personally, I think both Google and Facebook offer excellent products. But both face a barrage of ‘social responsibility’ issues, the response to which could bring them into a societal maturity they currently lack. But they have deep pockets… very deep pockets. We can hope that such money will be used in the development of automated ‘cleansing’ systems, rather than fighting off the need for society to protect itself – and the integrity of the political process of government.

All of what is happening may be inevitable. This ‘Face of Shiva’ may be characteristic of the destruction of a way of life that comes at the end of an age. The shift of power into the hands of very few people and corporations is a frightening thing. Plurality protects; the US lawmakers who are now looking at anti-trust legislation against their own companies face a difficult dilemma, but one that must be solved if we are to feel that the individual human has any value at all.

Is there a spiritual dimension to this? There is certainly one of consciousness. The most destructive forces at work are those creating the ‘polarity of hate’ across the western world. However much we feel ‘our side’ has been wronged, our only hope for the future is to re-discover the middle ground from which the extremists have pushed our collective centre of gravity- and that is a personal, not a political, action.

Other parts in the Faces of Shiva series:

Part One


These are my personal views. I respect those of others who may not agree with them. If there is a way through these things we need to share opinions and ideas in a non-polemic way. Currently, hatred reigns. As Stephen Hawking said, “All we have to do it to keep talking”.

If we don’t there may not be a future…

Please free to add your own comments.

©️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.

Images: The opening montage is by the author. The underlying image of Shiva is from Wikipedia under the licence detailed below.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Shiva_cropped.jpg

Thejas Panarkandy from India – Murudeshwara Statue

 

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The Faces of Shiva (1)

 

(Montage image by the author. See base of post for source of Shiva element)

Brahma creates the world. Vishnu sustains it so that it might achieve its potential. Shiva destroys it when its positive energy has been exhausted. The ‘world’ might be everything, or, for the initiate of old, it might just as well apply to anything created by the mind – large or small. In other words a system.

It should make us think…

The ancient Hindu triumvirate describes a deep and recurring motif in spirituality: that there must be a threefold process, which necessarily involves the sweeping away of that which has served its purpose; has ceased to support the structures it built to achieve its purposes; has ceased to draw upon the positive (expansive) energies that sustained its coming-into-maturity.

We could be forgiven for thinking that this ancient myth accurately describes what we are experiencing in the world economics, politics and technology.

At the heart of it is the question: does the ordinary human have any intrinsic value?

We take for granted that we have value – that human life has value. We are at the top of the food-chain. We are intelligent. We created machines that appear to think, at least well enough to solve problems. Yet we are surrounded by recent and powerful changes that are sweeping away the consensus of ‘human worth’ that have sustained our civilisations for centuries.

Even a decade ago, we could have counted on an unwritten agreement that human life had value among the powers that control. Now, I’m not so sure. On both sides of the Atlantic (and elsewhere) what was supposedly put to bed at the end of the age of Fascism (World War II and its surrounding periods) is being attacked by either ultra-rich or fanatical forces.

In Britain, we have a crumbling national identify, divided by the hatred generated by Brexit and the advancing power of the political ‘right’ whose vision sweeps away thirty years of social thinking. Thugs from the ultra-right have been empowered by Brexit’s implicit racism and feel justified in threatening and even killing members of parliament who promote social and inclusive agendas.

In America, there is a President who is adored or hated in seemingly equal measure; a head of state who openly rewards the super-rich – that one percent of the elite that owns ninety percent of the wealth.

This kind of approach is applauded by those who espouse the supposed ‘trickle-down’ effect of wealth at that top; yet detailed studies on both sides of the Atlantic have shown that the tricking down of such wealth is non-existent. Many of those who voted for Brexit admit they did it to ‘spoil the party’ of the better off.

On holiday, last November, we met and had dinner with an American couple from Arizona whose company we liked but whose values were very different to ours. The personal possession of guns was one of the issues, but we were able to discuss it in a friendly manner. I learned a lot – particularly from the man’s statement that the police were incapable of responding to armed burglary in time to do anything, and so anyone not armed was vulnerable… He was appalled when I said that, in the UK,  I would be committing a serious criminal offence if was caught with a pistol in public. I won’t be – I don’t like guns, but it pays to listen to other people’s views…

We did not fall out. Both sides of the table listened, and we continued to understand each other in more depth. Most telling was what the husband of the couple said to me as we were preparing to leave. He said that we should not believe this ‘bullshit’ that the average American middle-class family was prosperous. In his view this entire layer of American society had become substantially poorer over the past twenty years – the period that the super rich had hoovered up the available wealth – particularly after each financial crash.

The same is true in Britain, where the supposed ‘middle-class’ has seen its prosperity whittled away by the politics of ‘austerity’ since the financial crash of 2007.  As a close friend of mine – a very working class man – said, “None of the ****ing bankers were put in prison, yet we’re all a lot poorer through having to bail them out… and the rich seem to be a lot richer, despite this.” In our case, this rage came home to roost with Brexit – changing the face of Britain, possibly forever, and destroying an economic coalition of European countries that had prevailed since the end of WWII.

When I worked in IT (for a Californian company) it was often said to me, in confidence, that the Europoean Union was ‘too successful at international law and too principled…’ Food for thought.

Recently, I watched a documentary in which an American billionaire from Silicon Valley was interviewed on this subject. His opinion runs counter to most of his super-rich friends. He argued that the very wealthy had only to share a little of their wealth to make the whole economic carousel continue in its revolutions; but that they didn’t see it that way, and therefore it was likely doomed…

Everywhere we look there is destruction of the old and formerly stable way of looking at things.

Back to our ‘value of the human’ consideration. I used to think that we could only fix things if we addressed the following:

  1. There has to be a ‘society’. Former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher famously said that ‘there was no such thing as society’ – prompting outrage at the time. Collectively, perhaps, we need to re-learn where society comes from and how its values stay strong. The Scandinavian countries seem the best at doing this, and they willingly pay the higher taxes needed to sustain it.
  2. We have to believe that politics both works and matters. To have politics we  have to have real choices. If, say, a victory for either side in a two-party state actually results in a the same economy-controlled decisions, then that is not a choice – it’s a fake choice. Following WWII, Britain voted out an astonished Winston Churchill in favour of a radical Labour Party that proceeded to carry out an exhaustive and effective overhaul of British social provisions. That was only possible because there was belief that change could be achieved.
  3. There has to be education about the issues. Brexit is a case in point. Even hardline pro-Brexit voters now admit they had no comprehension of the complexity of what they were voting for. They may not want to change their minds, but they agree they were misled.
  4. Technology – particularly social media –  needs to be brought under a unified regulatory structure, even if it means extending the present laws to accommodate the uniques. The abuse of this mechanism was widespread in the Brexit referendum – and in the last US election. An English software company – Cambridge Analytica (about which I wrote at the time) – was chased to ground and had to ceased trading, but that’s proving to have been the tip of the iceberg. The origin of some of the vast sums spent with the social media companies on these campaigns remains shadowy.

Today, I’m not sure that list is comprehensive. Much of what follows in these posts is about the gaps…

Our world is complex and it is international. Any attempt to turn the clock back to simpler days, like ‘little Englanders’ do,  is doomed to swift and painful failure. The degree to which people’s prosperity is inextricably linked with the state of the rest of the world is a terrifying thing – unless you see it as part of an evolution of the human race; an evolution in which we are brought face to face with the real conditions prevailing in the rest of the planet – unable to ‘turn off the TV’.

Is the face of Shiva upon us? The speed with which these changes occurred, and is occurring; and the success of some of the most destructive forces suggests that, whatever you call it, something whose time has come is active across the planet. This may be a test of the present stage of humanity, or it may simply be an age of destruction. It’s happened before, but few learn from history.

In the next few posts, I will be writing about some of the most pressing topics around the subject of global power, economics and technology. Beginning with the degree to which western democracies are wide open to active and politically-sponsored online interference from hostile forces.

These are my personal views. I respect those of others who may not agree with them. If there is a way through these things we need to share views and talk a lot. If we don’t there may not be a future…

Please free to add your own comments.

©️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.

Images: The opening montage is by the author. The underlying image of Shiva is from Wikipedia under the licence detailed below.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Shiva_cropped.jpg

Thejas Panarkandy from India – Murudeshwara Statue

©️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.

 

The rotating blade of meaning (4)

Arthur Young part 4 keswick pic sm

Everything is in motion… Arthur M. Young and Isaac Newton both knew that, but in different ages and different ways. Let’s take a slight detour into some basic ways of looking at one of our fundamentals – the way things move. Our search for Arthur M. Young’s ‘geometry of meaning’ will be enhanced if we can enrich our vocabulary…

Someone in the age of Newton would have said. “This chair upon which I sit is plainly still.”

We can be cleverer than that, now. We all know that our planet is rotating once per day. We may remember that the Earth orbits around its sun once per year. We can even know that the atoms from which the chair is made are themselves in constant motion, albeit within a quantum envelope which renders them solid only when they are observed. The chair is therefore in constant motion, but most of that motion is irrelevant to the scale of human life. The rotation of the Earth is not likely to upset the stability of the chair, but it would be theoretically possible to create a hyper-sensitive chair that was…

Newton did not know of atoms, though the ancient Greeks discussed their necessity. But he knew that there had to be a limit to how many times you could divide something. At that limit you would find the essence of matter. He was very adept at envisioning the practical consequences of pursuing things to their limit…

He knew that things moved differently; not just in how one thing could overtake another, but that – within how they moved – there were differences of what we now call ‘rates’. To grasp this, we need to revisit the idea of a rate. If I have a dripping tap, and it results in one gallon of wasted water, measured over an hour, then I have loss of one gallon of water per hour. That is a rate: it is one relevant number divided by another – something per something else. It is a measure of how something that changes (dynamic) behaves with respect to something else. But our dripping tap may not waste water in a uniform way. Within that hour there may be peaks and troughs in leakage due to aspects or factors not known about in our ‘averaged’ one hour period. This is important to hold in mind when thinking about ‘motion’, too.

In Newton’s time, it was known that the ‘motion’ of things had different aspects. Imagine Isaac Newton as a child playing a game whereby he used a fallen branch of a tree, suitably trimmed with his penknife, to strike stones in his garden to see how far they would fly. He would notice that such stones went from being stationary (at rest) to suddenly going as fast as they might (a maximum) before travelling through the air in an arc and falling to earth again. The motion of the stone would therefore vary from nothing (taking out the Earth’s motion) to maximum speed – as it climbed into the air; to a point where what we now call gravity caused its upward motion to cease and its downward motion to increase, even though it was still moving away in terms of distance from the child Newton in the garden. Thereafter, the grass and earth would tangle its motion and it would come to rest again.

If we measure the whole of this motion, we might simply conclude that the stone was whacked by the strong child wielding a stick and shot down the garden for a length (distance) of, say, 10 metres. If a modern time instrument had been available, we might also discover that it took five seconds to come to rest. This would be accurate as an ‘average’ of what had happened, but would tell us little of the stages of the lifecycle of that overall motion – the interesting bits!

The above motion of the stone (with the help of a modern timer) would yield a measure called the speed or velocity of the stone of as: 10/5 = 2 metres per second: distance divided by time. But that’s not what happened, except seen as a historical thing. What really happened is that when child Newton whacked the stone, it didn’t just have a constant speed; its speed changed from nothing to its maximum value, sufficient to propel it (with the correct angle of strike) into the air in its graceful, if short, arc. Thereafter it slowed and sank through the air while still travelling along the line of its trajectory – the direction in which it was whacked. After this, it landed, bounced and came to rest in a scruffy (but real) way in the tangle of grass and mud.

Aside from my borrowing of his childhood, the real Newton had the genius to realise that the first part of the motion, (from rest to its maximum) was not just speed, but an increase of speed (from nothing to its maximum) that had a different rate. This was caused by the whacking of the stout stick, which transferred its energy to the stone, slowing the stick and thrusting the stone into space. This change of speed or velocity was named acceleration, and it was seen by Newton as something different to velocity, itself. This was a breakthrough in thought and measurement, and marked Newton as a true genius. It would take hundreds of years for Newton’s discoveries to filter into the mindset of the age. Many people today have little idea what he achieved, and yet our age of powered motion is built on his discoveries and the accompanying mathematics of calculus. The “Newtonian” world is the world of classical physics, and this view of how the world operated persisted until the advent of Quantum Theory in the early years of the last century.

Returning to Arthur Young’s discoveries. Young examined the symmetry of what Newton had discovered in the following way.:

Motion begins with distance from a start-point. In our example above the stone travelled ten metres. This is simply a length, which we can call ‘L’. A length ‘L’ applied to a start point (or Origin), without consideration of its motion, simply gives us a new position.

If we want to go further and investigate the real motion of our stone, we consider the time it took to travel the distance. We can call this ‘T’. The length (L) per time (T), written L/T (length divided by time) gives us a rate called speed or velocity – example miles per hour. This ratio of L/T is a basis for all motion and reduces things to their simplest expression.

So, what about acceleration? Remember that this is an increase of velocity not distance. If my car accelerates, it is now travelling at, say, sixty miles per hour rather than fifty. The acceleration has been ten miles per hour, per hour. In other words the rate of change of the velocity.

Summarising this:

Position = L

Velocity (speed) = is the rate of change of position or distance = L/T

Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity, which is L divided by T times T. This new expression, T times T is written T squared, T with a little ‘2’ to the right of it like this: T²

Arthur Young was pursuing the fit of the science of motion to the Fourfold model of meaning we discussed in the first three of these blogs. He needed a fourth term to follow the sequence:

Length (L),

Rate of change of Length, (L/T or velocity)

Rate of change of rate of change of Length, (L/T² or acceleration)

The missing term (L/T³) would be the next in the series and would complete the integration of the human world of motion with Young’s fourfold map of universal meaning…

But there was no recognition of a fourth term (L/T³) of Length and Time in physics… Yet Arthur M. Young, creator of the modern helicopter, knew there was a commonly understood concept that matched this – he had used it to make his helicopters safe…

To be continued…

{Note to the reader: These posts are not about maths or physics; they are about a unique perspective on universal meaning created by Arthur M. Young. If you can grasp the concepts in this blog, your understanding of what follows will be deeper.}

Previous posts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,

©️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.

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

cube of space+wake you smaller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

©️Stephen Tanham


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

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

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

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


 

River of the Sun, chapter 20 – The Waters of Thought

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 20 – The Waters of Thought

It was a very specific power and Lord Menascare had never experienced its like, before.

If not stopped, time had certainly been changed. No longer was there a uniform flow of things happening in a concerned – unconcerned way. Instead, the unfolding events were made into a running sequence, where the running was to the next important thing, where that flow slowed down so that every aspect of it could be examined in detail; taking as long as one desired…

Without moving his head, he could see and feel everything that Neferaset was involved with. To a lesser extent he could do the same with the thoughts and actions of Anzety, but suspected that was due to the power of the high priestess, flowing into her brother, rather than the high priest’s own…

It was like a liquid, dancing. A liquid current centred on Neferaset…

Obion was speaking, he had no idea of what was really going on around him at this level of awareness. Neferaset was talking very slowly to him, stating that, if he was to support her, as the King-in-Rising had ordered, then she needed control of the Talatat’s movements in the temple. Menascare could feel the distaste on the soldier’s breath; but, sensing little threat, the commander of the Talatat let his elite troops be marched around three circuits of the temple, ‘building the fire’ as the rejuvenated high priestess named it…

Now the flow of time compressed itself– like a discarnate mind listening to the the thoughts of the young priest-to-be, as Neferaset spoke.

“Amkhen, we have prepared this temple for you, but now you must be ready to sacrifice everything you have, everything you are, to the nature of your elevation to chosen priest of this temple. You know that there are pressures here, beyond anything that could reasonably be asked of you. We, in our turn will do what we can to support your journey to the full moon. Are you ready for this?”

Menascare forced himself to turn his head to look at the young man, though there was no need: he could hear and feel the apprentice priest’s every thought.

Neferaset held the attention of Amkhren. Fixing him, with her eyes, as a cobra would its prey. But this was no death strike; this was the heart of life protecting life… For the first time, Mensacare saw it in its wholeness.

Time was alive… and it moved like a serpent, just as his Goddess did… full of dread intent and focus, able to sift everything related to a single string of consciousness. To not know this was to be in the path of events, good or ill, as they tumbled from the sky. To be aware of this – and more, if you were of Neferaset’s calibre, was to have power over what the high priests called the blow of happenings…

Returning to the movement of the time-serpent in front of him, Menascare could see that, within this fluid, the high priestess had isolated Amkhren from those around him. The boy’s heart was beating peacefully, full of love for the woman he adored above anyone else–even his beloved grandmother. He saw nothing but Neferaset; heard nothing but her voice.

Within this, Menascare could sense her dilemma: that to keep him like this for too long would reduce his awareness of the very real threat posed by the sinister Talatat; now standing in a ring around the inner temple. Obion was nobody’s fool. He knew that something unseen was going on…

The snake that was this new time now slid forward. Event after event poured in on the boy, until there came a moment when Obion smiled and said in a voice like a sword being drawn from its sheath, “Amkren, join us…”

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

Chapter Eighteen – Rider on the Dawn

Chapter Nineteen – The Return of the Silence

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten, saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 19 – The Return of the Silence

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 19 – The Return of the Silence

Lord Menascare pushed with all his might at the edge of the damaged temple door. On the other side of the bronze olbong, Anzety, the high priest, did the same, though in the opposite direction. Both men were wet with the sweat of their efforts, but the discomfort had not diminished their determination.

Around them a sea of silent faces stared at their seemingly doomed work to partly fix the damage. Menascare cursed beneath his breath. It should have been unthinkable to attempt the repair at the very start of the restored ritual, but, looking at the twisted metal, he had felt such a depth of emotion that he wanted to make a gesture–to insert a sense of reparation–into the violated space.

One set of eyes, in particular, radiated venom – those of Obion, the Commander of the Talatat, who clutched the handle of his sword as though it were the neck of his arch rival. Menascare returned his gaze with calmness…and ignored it, turning back to his heated efforts. The room was filled with an hypnotic silence. Menasacare had chosen to do this when all participants had returned. He could easily have done it while the young priest-to-be was performing his hasty bathing and re-robing.

With a characteristic streak of subversion – the cause of so much of his troubles – he had elected to make his efforts public, brushing aside the risk of such visible exposure to failure.

In the East, seated in quietude, in the twin place of the Goddesses Isis and Mut, the high priestess sat with her eyes closed. Her calm presence seemingly withdrawn from the whole temple. She seemed oblivious to the efforts of her brother and Lord Menascare.

They were making little progress against the huge weight of the damaged portal. Tools, thought the elder man, I need tools… The thought took his mind back to much younger days when he had the company of the best stonemakers in the land. One in particular, watching his struggles to entertain the young Rameses, had taken him to the palace workshops and taught him the principles whereby a small force could rearrange a seemingly impossible weight, trading distance at one end for tiny movements at the other. He smiled at the memory of the younger Sarkur, and wondered where the Stonemaster was now? Good, men, really good men, were few and far between in this land of fear and politics. The chaos which had been the temporal harvest of the reign of the Erased still seeped through Egypt’s structures of power; whose shapes would never again resemble those of its glorious past–whatever the facade…

Tools, thought, Menascare, again. Forcing his mind from idle regrets to the needs of the now.

Anzety must have been having the same thoughts, for, shaking his head in unspoken agreement with his old teacher, he stepped out of the temple, to return, moments later, with a long, forge-twisted, brass bar and a small block of dense sandstone. Between them they positioned the crude lever. Menascare took one last look at their hasty arrangement, then both men pushed down on the long metal bar. The bronze temple door inched upwards, creaking on its remaining hinge as it rose. Too much weight was being placed on that single pivot, and the silent minds in the room tensed with the sense of impending failure – a failure that would be far worse than the initial act of damage. At the last moment, Anzety jumped across the space and lent his own considerable strength to the final positioning of the metal rings over the top of the giant pin of the upper hinge.

Menascare, now alone, could hold the weight no longer. There was a scream of metal on metal and the entire door hung between two worlds. Then with the high priest hammering his shoulder against the shining surface, a groaning ensued, whose note descended as the door sank, gently, down into its former position, overcoming the buckling of the hinge with its own weight.

There are victories that have nothing to do with death…thought Menascare.

Anzety was slumped, exhausted, against the door, his strained hands tracing wet streaks along the metal as it moved. He opened his eyes to see the miracle of a closing temple door, taking his leaning body with it as it slid into position and sealed the temple, once more, leaving him on his knees and close to sobbing.

But Menascare was not looking at his former pupil. He had turned, at some inner command, to see Neferaset emerging from her meditation. How do you describe the sound of war which has no fury? thought the mage. As if in response, the high priestess opened her eyes and did something that Menascare had only witnessed twice before in his life; once in the presence of his dying teacher, and once in his youth, in a deep sandstone cave, when his mysterious and enigmatic Goddess had first revealed herself to him.

She stopped time…

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

Chapter Eighteen – Rider on the Dawn

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 18 – Rider on the Dawn

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 18 – Rider on the Dawn

The marshlands by the great river gave way to the firmer, broken rock of the valley’s floor as the mule track climbed towards the far hills. The many trails fanned away on either side, as the possible destinations thinned to a single, rocky path. The great white horse did not slow in its thundering passage. The finest breeders in Egypt’s long history had gradually refined the purposeful form of the mighty creature which now bore its rider up the steep incline in the pale light of a the high desert’s pre-dawn, with barely a faltering of its elegant speed.

The air was cold, but the rider felt little discomfort, assured within his lithe and powerful young body of the limits of his endurance. He did, though, pull his cloak around him against the last of the short night’s biting breeze. He smiled at the brightening rocks as mighty Ra edged over the far hills beyond the East bank of the great river, covering in a breath the distance the horse had travelled in the whole time since the boatman had rowed him ashore and made ready his prepared and favourite mount.

He liked to ride with the dawning sun behind him. It brought him into alignment with that very special feeling within his breast – that sense of immense destiny. He knew his real life was about to begin–could sense his passing father’s imminent death on the wind.

Pharaoh at last! No longer just the youth, the boy-regent, the King-in-Rising. Now Egypt would tremble in obedience to the ways of his mind, to the cleverness of his strategies; and he would, of course, tell them as his campaigns brought riches flooding into Egypt’s coffers, again, how very fortunate they were to have the Unchosen as their God-King.

Except that he never used the word Unchosen. It was his private key to inner power. It was a word that described how he would spring back from adversity, overcoming what may have appeared to have defeated him, what had stood in his way, as he played with it… teasing out victory in the manner of the truly confident warrior. “Learn to build greater edifices, Egypt,” he shouted at the dawn, “you will need them to honour me!” His voice, thin in the cold air, dissipated, unheard, on the ancient rocks that were turning to gold.

Approaching a plateau, he slowed and wheeled his great steed around in a tight circle. He let it rest and breathe, reaching into his well stocked provisions to open a skin of water and let it drink. He pushed himself high in the saddle. Now facing East, he had to shield his eyes from Ra’s glory as the rays streamed along the paths he had ridden, creating a shimmering ghost of his journey. “See how Ra honours me!” he shouted at the dawn.

And then his eyes caught the newly glowing top stones of the Isis temple on the island from which he had made an early departure, secure in the knowledge that his orders would be creating havoc, below. “I will have you, Neferaset!” he shouted into the golden light, his loins surging with energy. “But when all your choices have dried like water on the sand…” the white horse pawed the rock before them both, adding to the combined symbol of power, “…then you will come begging for the touch of royal flesh!”

He thrilled at the thought, imagining how he would prolong their lovemaking, how she would marvel at his prowess as her own body betrayed her in its writhings. But, then, she would be discarded, another fallen priest, if a pretty one. Trust none of them, his father had said the last time they had talked, the last time – he now knew – that they would ever talk. Events in Thebes had turned his father’s loyalty against the resurgent priesthood. There is coming a new age, he had said. In which the royal line will need to be much cleverer than its priests… Cleverer. That had become his watchword, first-chosen or not. A new age… and the mind would be the arrow that took the new royal line forward into that golden tomorrow.

He looked down at the vision of the brightening temple on the island far below. His beloved Talatat would be waking to the possibilities of the day, would be stretching mind and body in the service of the wishes he had left in coded form, written on Obion’s scroll. Poor Menascare, he thought. What chance do you stand now? He laughed, a bitter noise against the golden force of the rising sun. Perhaps it is time for you to die along with my beloved father?

The wings of light streaming over his head formed themselves into an imagined escort as he turned Salama to face their upward path, again. The narrow plateau echoed one last time to his laughter, and then there were only falling motes of dust to mark the passage of the rider; that and the sound of thundering hooves on the single trail.

The dull ringing of two alabaster goblets striking each other was an incongruous accompaniment to the rising of the sun over the natural walls of the place Rameses had named, The Crescent of the Lost. Sarkur was uneasy in the gesture, just as he was uncertain about the wisdom of drinking temple wine so early in the day, if at all…

“Come, old friend,” said the royal rider, smiling through the unwiped film of white dust that covered his face. “Drink with me and we will mark the birth of the day that will see you finish my Tower.”

Sarkur the Stonemaster did as his companion bade him. But sipped the wine, rather than gulping it down in his companion’s fashion. “Majesty,” he said. “We do not know if there are enough hours in this day to accomplish the task!”

Despite his years of experience with Seti, the master builder took no chances with his son. It was like dealing with a snake, indeed, one of the early royal child-names of Rameses had related to that similarity – and the watchful stare of his early guardian. You had to be certain of your intent before you responded – if you responded at all… Now, in the full glare of the other’s unblinking gaze, the older man swallowed, acknowledging by gesture that he was uncertain of the wisdom of what he had just uttered.

The Regent raised his hand, and, for all his strength, Sarkur winced at the anticipated royal strike. But Rameses cupped his head to his ear. “Hear that, Sarkur?” he said, smiling in a way that was more chilling than any royal rage could be. “Do you know what that is the sound of?”

Sarkur gulped at the wine, despite his earlier resolve. He looked down over the edge of the tower. Below, and under the Regent’s careful guidance, his men had formed a perfect moon crescent around two-thirds of the base of the edifice. The pillar on which the two were seated rose out of this cradle, phallic and proud. The human crescent mirrored the canyon walls in this airless place. Seated on the ground and chanting their prayers to the distant royal household, the stone workers below kept their eyes to the ground, well away from those of the royal predator above.

“He’s dying, Majesty.” said Sarkur. “They lament the passing of their great King,” and quickly added, “and the great fortune which sees his son, the King-in-Rising being with them at this terrible time…”

“Terrible?” whispered Rameses, looking up at the clear, blue sky, with its burning heat, and smiling, cruelly.

“Would you not rather be there, Majesty – at your noble father’s bedside while he passes from this world?”

Rameses lay back onto the stone platform, letting his palms touch the stone, and feeling how the heat had begun to make the perfectly sculpted blocks intolerably hot, despite the earliness of the hour. Sarkur watched as the Regent’s fingers traced out the strange design which the Stonemaster had, himself, carved and fitted.

“My father is Pharaoh of the whole world, Sarkur,” said Rameses. “It does not matter where his body is, he will pass from all the places in this land as sweat passes from the tiny caves in the skin.”

“This, then, is your chosen place for your witness-watch?” asked Sarkur, gently.

“There is no right place,” answered the royal son. “He is a great man and his passing may be honoured by all, everywhere…” his lips formed a narrow line. “And why should I bow to the rituals of another clutch of Priests?”

Sarkur said nothing, holding his breath and willing the moment to pass.

“Life and death,” said Rameses. “Your men are making the sounds of life and death.”

“Majesty?”

“This very platform is a place of life and death…” He turned his body over, lying prone on the hot stone and looking down over the deadly edge, again. The heat passed quickly through his robes, warming his lower body. The energy reminded him of the ride up to the Tower, of the heat in his loins at the thought of Neferaset’s slow demise. “Be careful which you choose, Stonemaster…”

Rameses uncurled and sat up, his strong back sinuous and flexible in its raising of the royal head. He held out his goblet for Sarkur to join him in the gesture. The older man did so, but much more awkwardly.

“To life, then, Majesty,” the Stonemaster said.

“To death,” said Rameses, the fingers of his other hand idly tracing the edge of the strange design now set into the stone. The Cobra’s eyes were fixed on the far horizon, where, through the smooth gap in the crescent canyon’s wall, the end of the trail up which he had ridden was visible.

But Sarkur was not following the King-in-Rising’s gaze. He was studying, in minute detail, the patterns made by Rameses’ stroking fingers.

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

Chapter Seventeen – The Rule of Three

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 17 – The Rule of Three

River of Sun logo

 

River of the Sun, chapter 17 – The Rule of Three

Lord Menascare, former mentor to the King-in-Rising, stood in the outer arc of the temple, close to Anzety, the high priest. He watched the care with which Neferaset approached and woke the young priest, Amkhren, whose body was lying, still deeply asleep, where he had left it. The four of them were the only occupants of the temple.

What must it be like, thought the Eye of the Cobra, to have your world destroyed, but still need to pick your way through the debris of what you held most sacred, to save another’s life? Damn you, Rameses – did nothing I taught you take root in the fertile soil of your pampered soul?

But I can do this! His anger became a fury, and the fury became a voice, projected so that the stone walls of the temple echoed in their jagged harmonics, causing every head but that of the kneeling Neferaset to look to the West. The power of Menascare’s voice was such that it reached those waiting in the passageway outside.

“Let all bear witness,”chanted Rameses’ wayward mage, “that in obedience to the King-in-Rising, Rameses, Chosen of Ra, the high priestess of this temple rightly demands our participation in the continuation of this sacred rite.”

Menascare glanced across at Obion, knowing the choice of words would be crucial. The Talatat leader tightened his fingers around the Khopesh sword he always carried. One slip of meaning and the elite commander would attack him. He knew that Obion had his orders, too – and there was no certainty that both would be the same…

“Let all know,” Menascare held up the royal scroll left by the ruler, conscious that the very edge of danger was being trod, “that by examination during the night, our mighty Regent has determined that the high priestess is fit to lead us in the further testing of the young priest-to-be, Amkhren.”

Sensing the powers that strove for mastery of her space, Neferaset seized her opportunity, “Amkhren, wake now!”

No-one of this young man’s calibre should be faced with waking in a temple whose dark wings will almost certainly toy with him until his death, mere hours from now, thought Menascare, shaking his head at Neferaset’s courage and…nobility.

The boy turned a sleepy head, then unfolded bent limbs and stretched in the unselfconscious way that young things do. He looked around the temple, startled that it was not all a dream, yet holding fast to the eyes of Neferaset whose power was focussed on him in this, his weakest moment.

The high priestess spoke softly, “You did well, Amkhren. You did what I commanded you to do. Now you must do more…so much more.”

Amkhren struggled to his feet and bowed, awkwardly, to Neferaset. “Yes, High Priestess,” he said, adding in a whisper. Light of my existence…”

Menascare watched as Neferaset’s attention shifted – to the poles of power represented by the Talatat commander and himself. He studied her, admiring what he saw, as she unfolded her lithe body from the floor and, standing once again, gathered her resolve.

“Menascare, Obion!” Her voice was firm, “I have my orders from the King. Do you support me in what I must do?”

He could reply from the heart, “I can only speak for myself, High Priestess; I have my orders too – and they are to support you–but, also, to ensure that I lend to your rituals the same eye that the King-in-Rising, received at his tasks when the Regent was the age that your young apprentice priest is now.”

Obion spoke as one who tolerated being in the temple only because the King-in-Rising had demanded it.

“I have my orders, too, High Priestess, and in the Regent’s hand. Beyond those I cannot say, since neither the Eye of the Cobra nor I have seen him since last night,” he smiled slyly, “though you may have seen a lot of him..”

“I am sure the King’s eyes are everywhere, Obion,” said Neferaset, easily deflecting the soldier’s slight, “and that he sees through both you and me as he wishes. To return to my question: do you place your forces at my command so that I may carry out in this temple what the King has instructed me to do?”

That was a brave thing to say, thought Menascare. Everything now waited on the commander’s response.

“My orders are to guard, watch and wait,” said Obion, the deadly overtones obvious in his words.

“Very well,” said Neferaset. “This place, though damaged, is still a magical temple in the high tradition of ancient Kemet, our black land. The rites here were never designed for a circle of hardened soldiers. I will need to command their movements if not their words.” she looked from Menascare to Obion and back, testing them with her eyes. “Do I have your word on this?” She fixed her gaze on Obion, her evaluation of friend and foe finished, waiting for confirmation in their actions to follow…

Menascare interrupted, stealing the space within Obion’s slower response. “The Talatat are soldiers of the mind, above all else. Their obedience is absolute and they will do as Obion commands. What that is, I cannot say…”

Confident that she had at least secured a renewed beginning for her temple authority, she turned to talk to Amkrhen.

“Priest to be,” she said, softly. “You have one turning of the sand to wash and prepare yourself with fresh robes. Be swift in body but let your mind be swifter…”

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

Chapter Sixteen – Old Friends, New Dangers

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 16 – Old Friends, New Dangers

 

SE15 Montage Final

River of the Sun, chapter 16 – Old Friends, New Dangers

“Forgive me, high priest,” said Menascare. “Times have changed and we live in a dangerous age!  Had Rameses – or anyone else here, known that we were friends of old, the situation could have moved beyond my control!”

Sitting on the curved chair in his chamber, Anzety massaged the back of his head. The blinding headache that Menascare’s carefully delivered blow had induced was still taking its toll.

“We were hardly friends, Menascare. You were my least favourite teacher in that far-away temple, I was terrified of you. We called you the ‘Eye of the Cobra’. Did you ever know that?”

“Yes,” said the elder man, smiling ruefully. “thank you for that. The name grew in the fertile soil of the royal palace and is used today when I am not listening–and increasingly, when I am…  Nevertheless, you learned from my teaching, while others did not…”

Anzety shifted in his seat edgily, and not because of the pain in his head. “I have barely had time to think since the Royal assault on us! This situation is getting more complex every hour!  Am I to take it that things are not well between you and the King-in-Rising?”

“I have been Rameses’ mentor for more years than I wish to remember… I thought I had passed to him some of the moderation of my years, but there is missing in him a foundation of kindness, a basic trust of the rest of his world.  It is a trait that his father feared also. I worry for those in his way! His father was Seti: Man of Set – Beloved of Ptah!  Imagine a life lived with the spirit of wildness dominating your soul, but shared with the God who gave the heart a tongue and a pen!”

Anzety stood and tried to stretch some of the tension from his frame. “But, my sister and I do not act against the King-in-Rising.  We have merely adapted the old ways and merged them with a rebirth in the worship of the divine feminine. Our goal is to show that all such Goddesses are aspects of the One – aspects of the original Isis, mother of Horus, herself.  We believe that the right new rituals will release great powers of healing into the Black Land.”

Menascare reached for his wine and drained the glass. He didn’t often resort to the grape, but this was no ordinary circumstance.

“And that is a noble goal, high priest. But Rameses fears the new.  He loves it only when he is the source of it!  Take care, for you are both in great danger. The Heretic King still casts a long shadow, and Rameses explodes with rage if anything brings that dark time to mind… His father may be fired from kinder clay, but his venom for the self styled ‘Son of the Sun’ is as acute as that of Rameses.”

Despite the fact that the temple was in the middle of a cycle of initiation, Anzety poured them both some more of the rich, red wine. Temple protocol had been cast aside, and not by them… “The Talatat scare me enough!” he said.

“The Talatat!” Mensacare spat the words. “Those bricks of harsh uniformity. But you heard Rameses’ words, no doubt?” Menascare looked up at the ceiling, cursing quietly.

“That you were their creator?  I could not believe that. I assumed they were forged by Rameses himself?”

“No,” replied Menascare. “They were my creation. I engineered their minds to show how dangerously fanatical the pursuit of pure knowledge could be. I trained them in the inner ways of the mind so they could provide us with a living tableau of the outer parts of ourselves.”

The older man suddenly looked very sad. He hung his head and sighed, before continuing, “But Rameses became fascinated with their ‘purity of purpose’.  Together with Obion, he warped them so that they emerged a fearful machine.” Menascare drank deeply from his glass. “Beware them, Anzety – they are not like others; the edges of their ruthlessness have never been found…”

The high priest registered the deep lines on the face of his former teacher and decided to move the subject on.

“What will the King do now?” he asked.

“I dread to think – but I had better go and find out – assuming he is not sharing his bedchamber with your sister!”

“I think she will have skilfully avoided that…but the price may be high.  Anyway, shouldn’t you be guarding someone young with a sore neck?”

“It was time to show our King-in-Rising that there are limits to my obedience! Storming your temple was his idea and the bile still sits in my throat.” He coughed and shook his head. “In truth, your young priest lies on the temple floor getting the rest he needs. Besides, Rameses will not be checking him – he’s too busy with your sister!”

“But Obion might,” said Anzety. “From what I’ve seen, he is no friend of yours!”

“That is certainly true,” Menascare smiled. “But then, he only seeks friendship with the King – something he will never have!  Besides,” he chuckled. “He sleeps the sleep of the druggedhe will need his rest, too!”

Anzety looked at the older man and wondered about the resourcefulness needed to last this long under the eyes of a tyrant like the young ruler…

Menascare looked up from studying his hands; still thinking deeply. “Your young priest-to-be is a brave soul, too. I expected him to weep under the royal pressure, but he remained calm and resolute. He will make a good priest…”

“We hope he will be more than that…” Anzety risked much in saying it, but felt the time was right. But the look the other returned him carried a warning.

“Then you walk a very dangerous path, Anzety – one I would be a fool to be party to!”

“We are not devious,” said the high priest, trying to recover lost ground.” “we simply want to protect the glory of Egypt’s soul at a time of strife.”

“Egypt thrives on strife!  Did the Kingdoms not roll on through the Wheel of Neheh despite the many catastrophes in between?”

The Eye of the Cobra finished his wine and stood to go.

“Beware the price, Anzety, beware the price…”

With that, he left…

——————————–

Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

Chapter Fifteen – The Intimacy of Enemies

—————————

Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a period of deep upheaval for ancient Egypt. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’, Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

————————————————–

River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, are the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.

River of the Sun, chapter 15 – The Intimacy of Enemies

 

SE15 Montage Final

River of the Sun, chapter 15 – The Intimacy of Enemies

“I am not always the brutal man I portray,” said Rameses, lying to one side on Neferaset’s bed and sipping his wine. “Authority must be established before a new situation is allowed to develop. The seed must be placed, not where it might fall, but where it should grow.”

From the floor rug, where she sat, cross-legged on a simply mat, the high priestess replied, “Your dying father had no qualms about how we conduct ourselves. He chose me for the role…long ago.”

There was a touch of bitterness in the Regent’s tone when he replied, “He chose many people, priestess…!  My father did a good job of restoring Egypt’s borders, too; but my kingdom will be many times the size of his. After me, the world will look on my works and wonder at the mind that built them. I will take this Egypt and make it into something truly mighty!”

Someone as close as the black beetle crossing the floor of her chambers might have seen the flicker in her eyes, but Rameses did not.

“You lay great store by the mind?, Chosen of Ra” she asked, in a soft voice.

“Doesn’t everyone?  You have not achieved your status without much use of the mind?”

“True, Chosen of Ra, but my status is lowly compared to yours. Also I must understand, and use, the emotions of those in my care. Emotion, used wisely, can perform miracles.”

“So can fear…” Rameses smiled. “…and you can drop the ‘Chosen of Ra’ when we are alone. ‘Majesty’ will suffice.”

“The high priestess rose to her knees and bowed. “Yes, Majesty.”

“Good,” said the King-in-Rising. “Now that we are beginning to understand each other, let me ask you a little more about this mysterious island. Why are you so revered, and why is this place so shrouded in mystery?”

“I think it is simply because we are a recently established temple, Majesty.”

Rameses uncoiled his resting body like a snake, bring his feet to the floor and towering over his prey. “You ought to know by now that I will not be satisfied by such half truths!” he snarled. “There is a core of something new, here, priestess, and it goes beyond the stones of your temple! – I am not alone in finding it so, and I mean to uncover its heart.”

There was complete calmness in her reply. Her eyes were distantly focussed, as though listening to a conversation far away in place and time. “Its heart is the right word, Majesty. We seek only to rejuvenate the spirit of the worship of Isis, as we believe this has become stale.”

“Stale!” the Regent was still angry. “More like mummified!  So, yes, I can see your goal – and yet you actively revere and portray the Gods of Amun-Ra, with the twin aspects of Khonsu and Mut. Would it not have been simpler to use Isis herself?”

“Isis is there, Majesty, in the shadows. Our work is to make her a fitting mother to all the female Gods, re-uniting her with her distant origins.”

“And what of Horus then?” The royal temper was abating, soothed by the soft voice of the high priestess.

“Are you not the incarnation of Horus?” she asked, with wide eyes that emphasised her devotion to the traditions. The most ancient of the royal Gods? And, in using Khonsu and Mut as the lower aspects of Amun-Ra himself, do we not honour and obey the direction your family has set to finally rid the world of the legacy of the Heretic King, Akhenaten–the man your forebears have erased?”

Rameses found himself distracted by the dread word. “Akhenaten – the Heretic!  Do you not know that even to speak his name is punishable by death?”

Neferaset answered carefully, “If you had designs on my life, so soon, I would be dead already, Chosen of Ra…” the mistake that wasn’t slipped unnoticed into his consciousness.

A flicker of a smile crossed the tight lips as Rameses realised how artfully he had been softened. He moved his hands down his shins and leaned towards her.

“Know, then, that should I ever find that you are harbouring the slightest sympathy for the words or thoughts of the sun-drunk madman, your end will be slow, public and without the slightest mercy. Do we understand the game, Priestess?”

In answer, Neferaset slid, submissively, towards Rameses, taking and kissing his hand. The Regent pulled back with surprise; then gazed down at his hand, looking uncertain.

“Perfectly, Majesty.” said the high priestess into the silence between them.

Rameses found his heart was racing. “Isis has a worthy practitioner of her magic here . . . and you must know that I want you!” But he was less sure than his words suggested. There was a feeling that she was occupying a place in his mind that no-one had entered before.

Neferaset loosened the ties on the front of her shift. “Then take me, Majesty!  I will not resist such a royal command!” Her eyes were challenging; there was a hint of a smile.

Rameses was felt both aroused and endangered. He shook his head, slowly. “You play too well, priestess. I will not take you like this–offered to authority as a temple concubine would be–and you know it!”  He swept his arm towards her. “Away! But, I will have you, and willingly, before our encounter is over.”

Neferaset slid back along the floor to her mat. She picked up her goblet and drank some of the wine, never taking her eyes from the King-in-Rising. “Then, I await your guidance, Majesty…”

Rameses felt he had been caught off-guard. He drained his wine, and stared back at the woman who both intrigued and unsettled him. Returning to his military mind, he said, “So let me make our game of greater value. There are two in my company who are as clever as you and your brother. One is my old teacher, Menascare.” His face lined with the pressure of contrasting emotions. “Though nearing the end of his useful days, he is yet mighty in the ways of wisdom and coercion.” He shifted uncomfortably. “Before I groomed and promoted Obion, he was in line to be partner to my schemes until his comfortable death in the palace at Pi-Rameses, but lately…his mind is distracted by something–and Obion has seen his chance.”

“You mean to pit them against each other?” asked Neferaset, her eyes unblinking.

“Foolish woman,” Rameses lashed her with the word. “I mean to pit them against you, your brother and the Vessels of your impudent temple! But not in a simple way…I love strategy games, high priestess. I hope you do too?”

“With the price of failure being my virtue and probably my life, I have little choice, Majesty.”

Sensing victory, Rameses slid off the bed and joined the high priestess on the crumpled mat. He took her unresisting hand and returned the kiss. “I am not new to the skills of love, high priestess; I would ensure you enjoyed our lovemaking. Of course, should I find your own enjoyment insincere, your death would be suitably cruel…”

Neferaset closed her eyes to the sadistic image. “And am I the only one in the middle of this game of high consequence, Majesty? Or does my brother, Anzety, share this fate?”

“Your brother? Of course not!” Rameses smiled, happy at the confirmation of her naivety. “Why, your chosen young Priest is the centre of it all. It is far more effective to target someone else who is loved by another – ask Obion, the Talatat of Fear, how well that works!  And I can see how much affection you have for the boy – and he for you…”

Rameses watched the beautiful eyes close as the priestess swallowed, hard,  in the face of the picture of what was to follow. He pressed his advantage, putting as much severity into the words as possible. “You will complete his initiations before the full moon and he will emerge triumphant or broken – and this will be on your head, alone.”

Neferaset looked at him with pained eyes. “Three days! So little time, when it should take a whole year!  But that is a cruel thing to do to a young man without fault!”

“No, it is not!” said Rameses, enjoying the hunt for the mind and heart of this challenging woman. “It is a suitable sport for the King-in-Rising, and an appropriate response to an intriguing woman who sets herself, however subtly, in the way of the Royal Will!  When the moon is full and you have failed, then cruelty may play its part…”

Neferaset pulled herself straight and calmed her breathing, as she had done to face the onslaught in the temple. “Very well Majesty, you have your Royal hunt. But I have one condition?” Her eyes did not waver in the face of his deadly gaze.

“You would place conditions on the man who will shortly be your King?”

“Yes, just this – that you release the apprentice priest to sleep, now.”

Rameses reached out to take Neferaset’s goblet. He drained its contents, daring her even to think of objecting.

“You play like a girl, Priestess! You could have extracted so much more from me than this!” The wide grin split the cruel face. “But yes, I agree to your terms, though you sold them cheaply! Now I will leave you and sleep in the company of my soldiers…”

Rameses stood to go, straightening out his warrior’s clothes. “I will give Menascare and Obion their instructions.” he smiled. Separately, of course–we can have our games with them, too!”

He retrieved his cloak and swung it around his wide shoulders.

“The duty soldiers will ferry me to the bank of the great river in the morning. Once there, I will take provisions and a horse from your stables. I have need of my own company. These events are portents of much to come.” He fastened his cloak at the throat. “Did you know I was building a tower not far from here in the hills beside the desert? They will speak of the stark beauty of this tower when I am long gone…”

He strode to the door, then turned to look at the high priestess one last time.

“I am here, not just to study, you, High Priestess, but to oversee my tower’s completion. It will be a monument to my father. I will return when I am ready, but you will not know when…”

Neferaset rose and bowed. “Then we will see it as a test to be ready for you this time, Majesty.”

Rameses was enjoying himself. He looked down at the woman before him, savouring the additional authority his height imparted.

“I do not see how you could be ready under these circumstances, priestess. That is the whole point of my game – to see you kept off-guard, to expose your naked reactions within your broken temple…”

The moon was bright overhead as he stepped out beneath the stars. He began to walk towards the quarters of the Talatat, but changed his mind. Instead the King-in-Rising loosened his cloak and pulled it up around his head and shoulders. He crossed between the twin pylons into the sanctity of the outer temple buildings. There was no-one on guard. The smashed doors still hung at an angle on their ruined hinges. Lights burned inside the temple, but the sacred space had only one occupant. The apprentice priest was sleeping by the punishment block on which his head should have rested. Instead his head was cushioned by a garment that Rameses recognised as belonging to Lord Mensacare. Obion’s sword was nowhere to be seen…

Rameses shook his head. The encounter with the priestess had drained him. “Sleep well, young man,” said the King-in-Rising, feeling strangely sympathetic. “There will be tests enough in the days ahead. I am not always a monster…”

He looked down at the rich purple cloth beneath the boy’s head and shook his own.

“Menascare, you old fool…” he spoke into the air of the temple. “Did you think I wouldn’t know… or didn’t you care?” He walked towards the temple door, still speaking the thoughts in his mind. “How joyous your company was in the days of my childhood; and how deadly to my ambitions it now is…”

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Index to previous chapters:

Chapter One – Gifts From the River

Chapter Two – An Agony of Sunset

Chapter Three – The Dark Waters

Chapter Four – Touching the Sky

Chapter Five – The Fire Within

Chapter Six – The Wide Waters

Chapter Seven – The Crystal Air

Chapter Eight – The Unchosen Darkness

Chapter Nine – The Priestess Calls

Chapter Ten – Darkness at the Door

Chapter Eleven – Inundation

Chapter Twelve – Above and Below

Chapter Thirteen – The Binding Voices

Chapter Fourteen – The Flood

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Introduction to River of the Sun

In April 2015 a group of people gathered in the Derbyshire hills to enact the Silent Eye’s annual Mystery Play, entitled, The River of the Sun. The five-act mystical drama formed the backbone of that Spring weekend, and told the fictional story of a clash of ego and divinity set in an Isis-worshipping temple located on an island in the Nile, during the the fascinating period of the 19th dynasty, the time of Rameses the Great.

The 18th and 19th dynasties were a time of upheaval for ancient Egypt on many levels. The reign of the ‘Heretic King’ Akhenaten saw Egypt’s religious structure torn apart, as the revolutionary Pharaoh became what Wallis Budge called the ‘world’s first monotheist’; re-fashioning the power of the many Gods with one supreme entity – the visible sun disc, the Aten, for which Akhenaten, alone, was the high priest. Many have pointed to the failure of the ‘herectic’ Pharaoh’s politics, but few have doubted the sincerity of his religious vision. He will, forever, remain an enigma.

Whatever the nobility of his goal, the actions he took were ruthless, and included the shutting down of the annual deity festivals which were the sole point of ritualistic contact between the ordinary people of Egypt and their locally-worshipped gods. In addition, Akhenaten paid little attention to the domestic and military affairs of Egypt, allowing the country’s enemies to encroach on its borders, greatly weakening Egypt’s power at that critical time for the region.

After Akhenaten’s brief reign, culminating in the Pharaoh’s mysterious death, shadowy military forces took control of Egypt, instigating the 19th dynasty in the persons of Rameses I and, soon thereafter, Seti I, whose throne name derives from the god Set – often considered the ‘evil one’ because of his slaying of his brother, Osiris.

Seti I is judged by modern historians as having been one of the greatest-ever pharaohs, yet his importance in the 19th dynasty was eclipsed by the actions of his second son, the brilliant Rameses II, whose long reign of over sixty years included much self-promotion and the alteration of Egypt’s recent history. Both Seti and Rameses II (Rameses the Great) were passionate about the evisceration of the last traces of Akhenaten’s ‘chaos’, as they saw it.

But, although, by the 19th dynasty, the the ‘Son of the Sun’ was long dead and the buildings of his embryonic and doomed city of Tel-al-Armana were reduced to rubble, something of that time remained in the Egyptian consciousness. A new kind of connection between Pharaoh and God had been established, one which elevated mankind, if only in the being of the Pharaoh, to be someone who ‘talked with God’. It was, at the very least, a bold experiment and, though the world would have to wait until the 19th century to re-discover the ‘erased’ pharaoh, the philosophical waves of that period rippled out and dramatically affected the way the incoming 19th dynasty had to repair the worship of the Gods, uniting the people of Egypt under a trinity of Amun-Ra, Khonsu and Mut.

Our fictional story is a tale of politics, friendships, mind and faith. It is set against an historically accurate background, and at a time when Rameses was due to take the throne from the dying Seti .

Returning to Thebes in his swift warship, crewed by his fearsome Talatat mind-warriors, Rameses decides to mount a surprise night-time raid on the island-based Isis temple which has prospered under the sponsoring reign of his father. Rameses suspects that the inner teachings conducted by the revered High Priestess and Priest conceal views that relate to the thoughts of the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten. He plans to insert himself and his warriors of the mind into the islands’s Spring rites as the high priest and priestess begin a cycle of initiation for a chosen apprentice priest who has proved himself worthy of special advancement.

The resulting clash draws everyone, including the young Pharaoh-in-Rising, into a spiralling situation where each is forced to confront their own fears as well as living out the roles which life has allocated them. River of the Sun is the story of a spiritual and political encounter from which none emerge unchanged, including the man who will shortly be Pharaoh, the mighty Rameses II, whose secret name for himself is ‘the unchosen’.

Through the eyes and minds of those surrounding the chosen priest and the ‘unchosen’ Pharaoh, the River of the Sun takes us on a tense and compelling journey to the heart of power and its eternal struggle with truth.

The chapters of the book will be serialised in this blog. The finished work is planned to be available in paperback and Kindle in the Spring of 2016.

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River of the Sun, serialised here, and its associated images, is the intellectual property of Stephen Tanham and is ©Copyright material.