Gilgamesh descending (9) – final part

And now you will want an ending…

Like day gives way to night, though there is no single point where we could all agree that it was either…

Like the moment of sleep or awakening, though one drifts into the other and each knows little of its twin…

Like the point in the play where the character releases the player from his undertaking and becomes what the character has always been and was before the play started…

A pattern. Existence… we will speak of this, later.

Dare we speak of death and life, now?

But some patterns are not like others; when planted in receptive soil these patterns become a living thing. As an idea will take root, so will the seed of an oak.

As I am not simply a character, but a seed called The Story of Gilgamesh, I will call an ending to his time – the player; that he may reflect, and share good times but sad parting, and take away my pattern, as I hope will you.

Do I, the pattern of Gilgamesh within the Story of Gilgamesh remain a prisoner? I have never been so. My origins are unknown, lost in pre-history; but useful patterns, like wheels, have a habit of going and coming around. For thousands of revolutions of your planet around its sun, I remained in stone, waiting…

Only in your past hundred years has human kind shone a light into the outer soul and fully named the parts of the journey towards awakening. Yet here, in what you read, and in the hot desert of your – by now – tired consciousness, lies the story of that journey, whose stones were inscribed in cuneiform when the mighty Sun, Shamash, gazed out on a planet thousands of years younger.

Before we release him – the player – we must let him play out… most of… the story: the story that is his and yours.

His dusty and crumpled robe fits, doubly so as it mirrors his failure… so let him wear it one last time while I encourage him, using my words, to describe an ending…

******

Just this last act of the play to live through, now. I wear the descending king one last time. Carried on my back and in my brain like the threads of black and gold of the robe that was once glorious, and is now worn but washed, as is my lustrous hair that was matted. On my head is my finest crown and my sword which has no name – save to me – shines, polished and sharpened in its leather sheath.

Moments before I saw her, I was singing my made-up song:

“Who is the handsomest of men? Who is the bravest of heroes? Who slaughtered the Bull of Heaven? Who obliterated the Forest Demon…”

And then a giant crescent of paths coalesce into a single point and she is sitting there, brewing beer – Shiduri the tavern keeper and wife of Utnapishtim. As I stride towards her, she looks at my sword and rises, fearful. I state my business, honestly:

“I am the king of Uruk. I am going to find Utnapishtim and ask him about the Herb of Immortality.”

She looks into my eyes and asks me why there is so much grief in my heart. The question weighs heavy, but, as I was before my mother Ninsun, I am ready. I tell Shiduri about the loss of my beloved friend, Enkidu, and impress upon her my need to find immortality and not die in the dirt as he had…

She laughs and tells me that there are none who can cross the Waters of Death to Utnapishtim; that Shamash the sun is the only one brave enough.

I make myself tall and tell her about the death of Humbaba, the tree demon; I tell her about how Gilgamesh tore the Bull of Heaven apart. I tell her that she is right: there is no other who could cross the Waters of Death, but only because she has never met Gilgamesh the King.

There is a smile. She suggests that there may be a way that one such as I can do it…. but that I will need a boatman. She points me to the forest where he is to be found working the cedar boughs, but cautions that he has the fearsome Stone Men with him.

With my laughter ringing in her ears I leave Shiduri and enter the fearful forest…

Despite my bravado, there is, here, a depth of doom I have not felt before. Surely I have prevailed over much worse in my years of war? I breathe deeply and unsheath my sword, speaking its name beneath my breath as it rises, singing and alive, into the air. For a heartbeat of supreme power we are one… Then it spins to show me the attacker from behind, a man made of stone only feet away from me. Together, the sword and I move around faster than he can attack and he falls back, saying they will make the boatman’s vessel too heavy for me. He stops but his eyes never leave the shining black of my hissing sword… What he has said gnaws at my mind in a way that distracts… heavy… the world sinks through my mind and heart.

“We are the cold men!” comes the next voice, seeking to decoy me from the first at an angle just behind my line of vision. We spin again, sword and warrior set to strike; only to be pulled to water-wading slowness by the awful power of the second Stone Man’s words. The cold lead sinks into my bones. Sapping my internal fire…

“Strike!” the stone voices mock me.

“Like you destroyed the Bull of Heaven!”

“Like you destroyed the Cedar Forest.”

In an agony of slowness, I cease trying to spin to kill them.

“Will you destroy the ground you walk on?”

I stagger into the centre of the clearing. The boatman waves the Stone Men away; they have done their work. For the first time in my life, I am lost–within and without.

Urshanabi’s eyes are gentle, intelligent. The love in them breaks the ice that has embraced my blood. He tells me I cannot cross the Waters of Death to meet with Utnapishtim with war in my heart. With what do I replace it?… But, my question dies unspoken as he holds out both his hands for Deep Cut

Arms that seem not to be mine straighten, then pull back, in an agony of doubt. But then something inside breaks and I lay my beloved sword on the gentle palms that wait. His eyes say what I cannot.  More than anyone other than Ninsum, my mother, this man understands what is happening to me…

It is not rage that powers me through the dark Underworld faster than any giant cat can run. It is not fear of being burned to a crisp by shining Shamash, should he catch me before I can race the dawn. At the ninth hour I break through the darkness as Shamash the Sun begins to burn my heels.  Before me the garden of the gods opens out. Trees and shrubs of precious stones: rubies, lapis and coral clusters. I walk through its splendour as though in a dream.

Utnapishtim is not what I expected. He is an ordinary man. To my eyes, he looks just like me. “I was going to fight you, but I gave away my sword,” I say. He seems unmoved by my former gesture…

He asks why I am ragged, thin and hollow-cheeked. Without anger, I can only tell him of the recent misery of my existence. He begins to say things I know are important to my understanding of immortality; that I have worn myself out with ceaseless striving and am simply a day closer to death.

For a while I do not respond, then I remember that, after mourning my beloved Enkidu for seven days a maggot fell out of his nose.  Utnapishtim is silent, understanding this and wondering if I do…

When he responds it crushes what is left of my spirit. “Do you not compare your lot to that of a fool?”

I hold my fists to my temples. “I want the gates of sorrow to be shut behind me!”

He toys with me, saying that, at the end of all things, the gods had been assembled by Enlil to grant he and his wife Shiduri, eternal life. Then asks who will assemble the gods for me?

My hands indicate I will do anything to earn this eternal life… he says nothing, but, seeing how tired I am, invites me to try to stay awake, as an immortal would. He knows, I see later, that I will be unable, but will lie about it. His wife, Shiduri, bakes me seven daily loaves which slowly rot as my exhausted body sleeps, but I wake up clutching the first and last of these and denying I slept. They look at me with understanding but pity.

Utnapishtim and his wife confer and make me an offer. They tell me that at the bottom of the Great Deep grows the Herb of Immortality. If I can dive to its depth, risk the skin of my hands on its barbs and return with it, then I will be allowed to take it back to Uruk.

Sword or not, I grasp this lifeline… and, with heavy rocks tied to my ankles, succeed in diving for the precious Herb.

I am washed, dressed in finery, fed and sent on my way with all the trappings of a visiting king. I do not sleep through the entire journey home. Finally, at a watering hole close to my city of Uruk, I pause to rest and bathe, again – within sight of the city’s walls. The victorious Gilgamesh, Lord of the Deep, cannot enter his city dirty and haggard.

I fall asleep, waking shortly after to see that a snake has eaten some of the Herb of Immortality clutched in my hand, shed its skin and is stealing what is left of the precious herb. In total despair, I watch the serpent disappear through the undergrowth.

It is gone…

I look at the glowing walls of Uruk, the city I built… we built…

They despised me when I had everything, how much more will they hate me now that I have nothing… not even my sword?

With my head bowed, I pass through the city gates. From somewhere deep, I feel the real Gilgamesh asking me to say goodbye. I must walk these final steps alone, now that I am no more a king than the lowliest servant in this place. His final thought is that if I let this go, then something wonderful will happen… with that, in the manner of the gods, he is gone.

In the main square the Fate Dancers are announcing my failure, mocking my glorification of Uruk as it was. I raise my head and listen for the end, the words that will tell that, for all my self-proclaimed glory, that the children cry themselves to sleep at night.

When the line comes it is not what I was expecting.

“And in their bed chambers at night, the young-folk sleep soundly.”

The man who was their king has tears, now… and through the waters of understanding I see a figure at the top of the temple steps waiting for me… Shamhat. Her eyes are glistening, too. She comes halfway down the steps to take my hand and pulls me into the temple.

They are waiting, all of them… and someone else. For a third time, Enkidu has been raised from death. Shamhat places my right hand in his left and clasps her hand around our cedar and silver bracelets – a gift from Anu and Aruru when we began, She brings us before the East – the place of the King.

Directed, we kneel at the East and Shamhat binds our joined wrists with red cord.

We, the unblessed players, are then blessed…and raised up.

For perhaps the first time, I, Gilgamesh, tell the truth about what happened with the Great Deep, the walk in paradise and the meeting with the immortal couple.

“They told me where to find the herb of Eternal Youth and I retrieved it from the depths of the Great Deep. It was stolen from me by the serpent that crawls upon the earth on its belly.”

My brother, Enkidu, tells those in the temple that this was no failure. That the gods have granted us a glimpse of true immortality. He raises our arms to show that we bear the tokens of immortality given to us early in the story. For the first time I notice that the humble cedar and silver bracelets bear the symbol of a tree… and that another, larger one adorns the temple.

Shamhat raises our joined wrists… and everyone salutes, raising their bracelets and making the sign for ‘Fear Not’.

Bearing the Mask of Destiny – the centrepiece of the Fate Dancer’s movements – Enkidu and his brother Gilgamesh leave the temple… Beneath the rainbow arch held aloft by the arms of Anu and Aruru…followed by a smiling company of players.

The play is finished.

******

They are gone now. The last of the crates were packed into the two cars and they left, slowly, as always… reluctant to leave all this depth behind.

Only the pattern remains for a while: the pattern that is the story of the Journey of Gilgamesh, Lord of the Deep. It does not promise easy understanding. The full meaning must be teased out from the carefully chosen words, particularly the enigmatic ending.

Patterns are the mark of existence… For something to come into existence, it must be possible. When it does, the pattern is the dominant principle. The pattern is in no hurry… it is eternal.

Living things are patterns, too…

The pattern waits… as it has always waited, to be brought to life in the hearts and minds that search for the deeper meanings of death and life in a world where the Deep dwells within matter. This beautiful planet needs its Lords of the Deep – now, more than ever…

Thank you, Stuart. Thank you, Sue.

And thank you to the lovely people who came to make it real…

Other parts in this series:

Part One  Part Two  Part  Three

Part Four    Part Five  Part Six

Part Seven   Part Eight   This is Part Nine, the end.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh by Stuart France, and Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, © Copyright.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

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Gilgamesh descending (8)

The portal through which all the others have passed – except ghostly Enkidu and forlorn Gilgamesh – shimmers and fades. My brother – his twin – fades… And he and I… and then only I am left alone in the middle of the most threatening inner space I can imagine…

There is the dominating sense of ‘nowhere else to go’; and yet I know that there is only ‘me’ in here… until I look at the walls, made gently visible by the light that is not light in this atmosphere of total darkness.

The feeling of ‘shimmering outline’ comes again, as it had when I chased Shamhat through the labyrinthine passageways. In the dimness, I can see carved images in the stone all around me. The recognition of these strengthens their form, and I can make out that they are the figures and faces of the Divine Council of Elders of Uruk… Those whom I scorned as ‘effete’ only a short while ago.

I expect them to look down on me in my disgrace, in my dirt and sweat; but they do not. Their kind eyes seem to reach into my misery. With this thought the air in the chamber changes, taking on a lightness.

A voice speaks without sound, “Gilgamesh! You have found your way to the Holy of Holies, Attend now to the vanities of your heart and contemplate them well.”

Vanities… I consider the word. It’s a subtle, insidious thing that creeps into life and weakens a man’s purpose. In my youth I despised those who displayed it, and, if they would not learn from my words, I would show them them the power of the sword that has no name…

The fingers of my right hand clutch in reflex at the empty air of my waist.

Have I become vain in my victories, in my glory? The wall images are coming to life … Utu had spoken the words, but I also recognise around me the rest of the powers that convey the energies of the seven planets to us all: Nanna, Ninurta, Gugalanna, Inanna, Enki and Enlil. For long minutes their quiet words burn me as no fire ever has. Each in their turn tells me that the gentle gifts I refused, one by one, in my hatred of Shamhat, would have been sufficient to change the course of all of the disasters I created in my vanity.

It is too painful to bear… and yet, there is nowhere else to go but to remain within that fire. And in that sense of ‘not going’ I begin to see another Gilgamesh; one who would embrace, instead, ‘nowhere else to be…”

“I am sorry,” I say, meaning it. “I was blind but now I see.” My head falls, but I raise it, again, to continue staring into the mysterious air of the chamber – air that had become fire is becoming something for which there is no name…

“I will make recompense to the people of Uruk…”

An energy from my youth fills my consciousness. I know what I must do…

The feet that carry me from that place are not entirely my own. The Fate Dancers are moving in the square as I finally escape from the confines of the Ishtar Temple and out into the glorious sun. They part to let me pass. There are half-smiles on their faces. A bath, sacred oils and my best robes await, but first, I must be with someone else; and she will not mind my dirty and unkempt appearance, she knows me for what I am…

“O Lady Ninsum, mother and goddess,” I say, kneeling before her. “I am resolved to set out on the quest of my life, and, as always, I seek your blessing.”

There is a coldness about her manner. I did not expect this; it chills my heart.

“So soon, my son? Should you not rest awhile?” She leans forward in her ornate chair to study me more closely. “Surely killing the fearsome demon of the Cedar Forest was magnificent, my son?” She pauses. “You and my other son, Enkidu, have a right to celebrate your victory…”

She knows… I know she knows, but she is making me pay for the loss of her adopted son, Enkidu. I tell her that it is because of Enkidu’s death that I must leave to fight the greatest battle of my life – to rid Uruk of the power of death: to kill death!

She waits and watches. “Life and death are part of the same cycle, my son. Even those in the Divine Council will one day die.”

I am ready for this, for my future depends on the answer. “There is one who did not die, Ninsun – you taught me this when you told me the story of the great flood, in the days when I sat on your knee and listened and learned.”

“Utnapishtim…” she whispers, her gaze directed far away. “You will journey to find if Utnapishtim is real… and if he still lives?”

“And I will end death, itself, when he guides me, for never has such a king made this quest… a quest to honour my lost brother and your lost son.”

“You go to steal the Herb of Immortality from the denizens of the deep, then?”

“Yes, mother and goddess Ninsum.”

I can sense the sea-change in her mood. There is a slight turning of the mouth. She sees the value of this challenge and I press my advantage. “I and only I can do this…”

Her eyes are suddenly bright, she gets to her feet and comes to stand over me.

“There must always be a choice, Gilgamesh. Remember that. If there is no choice there can be no victory.”

I do not understand, but I nod my head as though I do.

I, Gilgamesh have already made my choice…

Ninsum lays her left hand upon my head. In a world become desert it is the kindest thing anyone has done for me in a long time. My face – the King’s face – is wet with tears as he gazes up through the waters into the loving but challenging eyes of his mother.

“Go, then! And with my blessing, but remember this,” she places her other hand on my head. “If the truth were what we thought it was, then it would contain no power to change us…”

She smiles and kisses where her hands are. “It must always be deeper than our search… Now leave and learn to embrace that deep.”

She holds my head in a way she has never done, before. My left leg feels suddenly stiff and heavy in this kneeling position. There is a resistance. My hand flies to where my sword should be… and finds it.

Other parts in this series:

Part One> Part Two> Part Three> Part Four> (opens in a new tab)” href=”https://stevetanham.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/gilgamesh-descending-5/” target=”_blank”>Part Five> (opens in a new tab)”>Part Six>

(opens in a new tab)”>Part Seven> This is part Eight

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh by Stuart France, and Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of King Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, © Copyright.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

Gilgamesh descending (7)

I watch as he runs. I am tired of his slow-witted learning. Act Four is half way through, but already he has exhausted the patience of everyone but his mother….

Where did that come from! One of the features of a central role in these mystery plays is a certain degree of exhaustion. Even if you are familiar with it, the script will have many points where you will wish you had studied it in more detail. Sometimes the fine details cannot be pre-written into the script, and have to be adapted to the conditions on the day.

We three – the annual writers in rotation – are by no means above making a mistake or three… and these crop up as part of the ‘testing’ that must apply if this ritual drama experience is to be raised beyond a simple ‘reading’ of the text.

We learned our temple craft from Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, the former head of the Servants of the Light organisation. I remember her saying, at the beginning of one such intensive weekend:

“Long before the end, you will be tired, very tired – and that exhaustion is a part of the process. Do not forget to learn from what is happening to the player as well as the character…”

The character you bring to life in these mystery plays is what Dolores would have called a thought form. Sue’s, recent post, Lord of the Deep: Getting under the Skin touched on this process. When you realise how much power you can bring to such an occasion, you have a double responsibility on your head and in your heart. You must guard and guide the role… and your self playing it. Both are part of the emerging alchemy of intent and delivery.

So now we face a double danger. Gilgamesh charges through the labyrinthine passageways of the temple of Ishtar, not realising that he is in a magical place that is not subject to the laws he knows and can control. Clutched in his sweat-streaked right hand is Enkidu’s axe… He pursues a woman he thinks is his enemy – Shamhat. But this is not the high priestess but the goddess to whom the Temple of Ishtar is dedicated.

But now I must surrender to his presence and, literally, be there for him…

She is inhuman, this Shamhat who can outrun her King. As the passageways get darker, I know I am losing her in the endless triangles along which she flees… Surely, we must be near the very centre of the temple – the Holy of Holies. My feet slide on the warm stone and I arrest my movement facing one who stands before me, unafraid–so familiar and yet, other-worldly. The Bull of Heaven is like a man, but his face is masked in pure white, as though a pot has been thrown to demonstrate the perfection of the art…

He calls to me from across this chamber, “Gilgamesh, you have offended the Divine Council.”

I snarl back that I will cast his corpse down the narrow streets, so that the city orphans may gorge on it. My taunts seem to leave him unmoved. I would be disappointed if it were other than this…

I am about to tell him of the bravery of my brother, who died leading the fight against Humbaba, the tree-demon, but, as though knowing my thoughts he says, “You have slaughtered Hu-Wa-Wa, the watchman of the Cedar Forest.”

I raise my weapon. It is time to silence this half-animal fool. I will not have the memory of Enkidu besmirched. But the weight of the blow is wrong, and only then do I realise I am clutching an axe – Enkidu’s axe; the one with which he led the attack on the demon. My soul soars, knowing that Enkidu is somehow here with me, in the form of his fearsome weapon. A warrior knows how to tune his strike – learning in an instant how to make fine changes to its arc and balance. I have earned and defended my kingship…

The blow splits the head of the Bull of Heaven and he sinks to his knees. Not even granting him time to die, I cast away the dripping axe to rip off the pure, white mask he wears…

And die another death… Before me is the stricken and bloody face of my brother Enkidu. I have killed him with his own axe.

In death – again – I can see he was, indeed, my twin; that the word brother does not encompass the wholeness of my love for him.

But how have I twice caused his death? Only beneath the spires of Ishtar can I imagine that this has been arranged by the Fate Dancers to show me the pitiful place to which my will and desires have brought me. Sobbing, my life seems to spill out from eyes that have seen too much, the hot tears falling through my fingers and becoming lost in the old dust that covers the stone floor of the inner temple of Ishtar. It is a fitting picture of my life…

Unseen hands raise me, the Fate Dancers are directing my life more openly, now. With eyes than can cry no more I watch as I am placed at the left side of a portal. Disbelieving, I see that a ghostly Enkidu has been raised to stand at the portal’s right side. Like two statues unearthed from the ground, we stand, undead, as the Fates and their charges pass through this portal of inner learning to their blessings.

Only the ghostly Enkidu and the worthless Gilgamesh remain unblessed…

The temple Guardian looks at me with something like pity in his eyes, seeing my exhaustion… and his. The King’s fingers clutch at where his sword used to rest on the wide leather belt… But, for now, there is nothing.

Other parts in this series:

Part One> Part Two> Part Three> Part Four> (opens in a new tab)” href=”https://stevetanham.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/gilgamesh-descending-5/” target=”_blank”>Part five> (opens in a new tab)”>Part Six> This is Part Seven

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh by Stuart France, and Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of King Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, © Copyright.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

Gilgamesh descending (6)

Faces… If there is one thing upon which Gilgamesh would wager his life, it is that life is all about faces…

His own face now burns with a permanent redness; whether from anger or something deeper, he does not know. But it burns… and gets hotter with every passing encounter with the faces that fight to decry and destroy what he has achieved as king… and before that, as they would see if they gazed down from their indifferent heights and invested in understanding his noble life.

Once more, he clutches the jewel at his throat: the amulet taken from Enkidu’s dead body in the forest – the jewel bestowed on his lost brother by Ninsum, Gilgamesh’s half-goddess, half human mother.

He is becoming thin, he can feel it. There has been little sustenance of any nature in the past few days. Enkidu’s death has robbed him of all appetite. All he can do is to carry on…

With heavy tread, he returns to the city of Uruk – his city, though it now feels controlled by strangers – who do not wish him well. He tries to tell those who will listen that Enkidu is dead, that, though, together, they slew the dreadful demon Humbaba, his brother died like a hero, with their king, Gilgamesh, fighting to save him.

But, no-one is listening. He shuffles away, seeking the shadows. His bent and dirty form goes unrecognised as he hides from the people – choosing alleyways, where once he strode in splendour through the main streets.

He is surprised when he looks up and sees that his feet have brought him to the pillared front of the main temple – the home of the high priestess, Shamhat, his enemy… Everything in him curls inwards as her mocking voice calls to his ragged and dirty form. He sees her shape in the shadows, emerging to witness his disgrace. His greasy hand clutches his sword and raises it, but its power is absorbed by the temple and he sinks to his knees, screaming in frustration.

Then, from nowhere, the Fate Dancers encircle him and begin their dance; only this time, he is not in the King’s position – in the withdrawn east of the temple – he is in the centre of its pattern, his fate being spun like a toy in their cruel movements.

As their dance comes to a close – but before they withdraw – he sees two faces looking down at him from between the pillars of the Temple of Ishtar, but, when he blinks away the tears of rejection and sorrow, there is only one… Shamhat’s face shimmers as she gazes down on his…

“Rise and bed me, O mighty Gilgamesh. Give me of your luscious fruits,” she mocks. “Be my sweet man…”

The taunts burn him as nothing ever has before, though the words offer him everything he could have desired. His mouth fills with bile and he sputters his reply. His voice is a dull rasp. “In my pride you scorned me, yet now you offer yourself freely. Why do you mock me at this, my lowest estate?”

He sees it now. Shamhat’s motives are revealed. She will try to destroy the King in retaliation for the death of her lover, his brother, Enkidu…

With this anger, a wild energy at the heart of Gilgamesh returns to empower him and he leaps to his feet, shouting, “A curse of destruction on you and your temple of harlots”

Shamhat, her edges shining and twisting as though person and shadow have mixed, laughs and turns to enter the dark chambers of the temple. She disappears into the internal labyrinth of its passageways and Gilgamesh charges after her, blazing, as his fury consumes him… He does not see that the movements of the Fates have changed his sword into Enkidu’s axe.

Outside, in the brightly-lit city, the Fate Dancers are dancing, again.

Other parts in this series:

Part One> Part Two> Part Three> Part Four> (opens in a new tab)”>Part five> This is Part Six

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh by Stuart France, and Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, © Copyright.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

Gilgamesh descending (5)

And now we must move swiftly, as the king’s heartbeat quickens with purpose.

Again, he watches the Fate Dancers… and begins to see the depths of what they do. These movements describe a ‘whole’. They are parts of how that unity evolves itself, while carrying its essential nature, unchanged… except for the result of its own process, working on the material of that which is not yet awakened to that change. It is something for which the mind has no language – except to watch the dancing…

Gilgamesh knows he is the agent of change… That all good change in the face of the chaos that came before comes from him. Enkidu – his brother and twin – is learning well. But there is a test of his new life coming up. Gilgamesh has determined that the kingdom of Uruk is still not safe; that there is another threat to his consolidated power. The demon named Humbaba lurks in the wild cedar forest. It is time to plan the death of this wild force so that all may be brought under the rule of Uruk.

His energy is all-consuming…. I am consumed.

They do not understand. Before, they did not need to understand. What has changed? Is it the presence of my brother, Enkidu, next to me, as we take turns to sleep in this vast cedar forest, where the trees really do touch the sky – this place of the greatest wildness in the whole of Sumer? The sky-father will bless me for this, as his night-time rest will no longer be disturbed by the hissing of Humbaba’s deadly whispers, echoed though the tall trees… Soon, there will be no great trees here, as they fall to the bloody blade of that which will kill the tree-demon… King Gilgamesh.

The final battle approaches, I can feel it. For seven days and nights we have gone deeper into the great cedars – to get to the heart of where cowardly Humbaba hides. My brother, Enkidu, is failing me. When confronting the Council, he even said he thought I was wrong! I, his brother, who shared with him my life and my throne, He said that Humbaba, the source of all our ills, was really Huwawa, the great and provident spirit of the cedar forest!

I had to compel him, showing him the nature of true strength in the face of the weak. Only when kneeling, again, before my mother, Ninsun, did I waver for a second, when she took Enkidu as her own child, leaving my blessing until the end of our audience. I bit my tongue, knowing that to prove my strength would vindicate me. Knowing that, on our return, she would hold me up in triumph…

Each night in the darkening forest, we take turns to sleep while the other watches. He says I cry out in the blackest of hours, but I know I have no need of dreams. When he sleeps he cries and rolls on ground, as though clutching his heart… With each night of dreaming he seems to lose a little colour, and awaken a paler man. When me met in battle in the square of Uruk, he was resplendent with the bright colours of adventure… Now, they fail him, but I know that at the bottom of that black pit lies courage; and that his dreams of suns falling from the sky into valleys are his loss of his bravery.

He will prevail, He will find that courage….

I know, too, that when the colours of cowardice have washed away in that valley of his mind, there will come a blackness – a blackness within which he will find, as all good warriors do, his inner nature… and then, in victory, he will shine once more.

When I stand guard over his fevered sleep, I take my sword from his leather bindings and hold it over him, sweeping the air to rid him of these ghosts. But his writhing continues and I am sickened. Tonight, there is a yellow sickliness about him, but, as I stand over him, I see that it is leaving his body and draining into the earth.

I sit back and watch this wonderful return of bravery, as shining black takes over his skin. While his courage steels itself, I hold my sword and will its strength into him, my brother. They do not understand my sword, whose handle grows too wide in the palm of anyone else who tries to hold it. Its potency is mine, alone… They do not understand the curve of the blade and how it reflects the arc of the sky – home of the Sky-Father who, I know, guides me.

Above all, they do not understand that it has a name, a curving, shining black name, that I shall never speak… For to speak it would be the death of what I do…

There comes the sound of crashing trees, giant cedar trees… and Humbaba is upon us! Wake, my brother, I call, your time of courage is now. And he does, and rises mighty and restored and shining black from the inner victory over his final nightmare. With a skill equal to mine, he weighs up the monster whose magic emerges from all around us, then calls, Come Gilgamesh! and charges at its hidden heart.

The battle is long and has many faces, all of them screaming. The mighty cedars roar with rage that I dare to lead this attack upon the demon they have concealed… but it matters little, for the sword that has no name and that cannot be held by another is singing its black song… and nothing, not even tree-demons, can stand in the way of its will – my will.

Humbaba the tree-demon is dead. The trees are silent. They are silent because I have cut them all down. My black strength surged after I let Enkindu deliver the last blow… it was important that he see his re-found courage at work. He kneels at the side of the monster, Humbaba, sliced open in a thousand places.

I clear the last of the trees from the place of our final sleep and return to look at the kneeling Enkidu. He is slumped forward, as though praying. I clutch his shoulder to give him strength but he falls into the blood and the maw before us both.

Now, there is only the blood-lust and the beatings of both our hearts; and the other is not Enkidu, for I see, with a scream that fills what was a mighty forest, that Enkidu is dead…

The hidden eyes in the forest are downcast, as are mine. Not even the temple guardian can look upon the devastation.

Other parts in this series:

Part One> Part Two> Part Three> Part Four> This is part five

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was adapted from the Epic of Gilgamesh by Stuart France, and Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, © Copyright.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

Where Scarecrows End

On a day of scarecrows

The little patch of oil, beneath your sump

Called to me

To put aside Wray’s springtime pride

And ride my early miles, again.

Where teenage fingers

Cold or burned, begged broken thread

To mend and seal

The engine’s heated flow

And let the boy get home

And sliding frozen rump

From frozen saddle, fingers stiff

To feed and heal

In mother’s kitchen

The willing price of independence

Where scarecrows end

The little patch of oil, beneath your sump

Sang to me

To put aside Wray’s springtime pride

And ride my life, again.

©Stephen Tanham

The Wray Scarecrow Festival takes place in the lovely north Lancashire village of Wray each year in the first week of May. The beautifully restored pre-unit Triumph motorcycle was a complete surprise

Gilgamesh descending (4)

And as I watch Gilgamesh ascend towards the vast cliff-edge from which his life must fall, I wonder about the origin of the ‘play’ in human consciousness. The plot already contains characters – one of whom is dominant. They have their ‘I’s’ when invested with a player, an actor, who gives the ancient words new life. These I’s are as garments, waiting to be stepped into. If they are well-written, as Lord of the Deep was, they will be coherent and real, provoking a response of reality – merging the actor with the ‘I’ of the part she or he plays…

Precisely because of this ‘gift from the gods’, this human ability to ‘become’ someone else, we have both playing (as children, for example) and drama. When that drama is deliberately infused with a seed which will take root in the consciousness of the player, then we have a mystery play. A ritual drama sets the mystery play within a space which, through repeated use for the ‘good’ in the human soul, has a power of its own.

I am calm, now. Watching Gilgamesh and his new twin consolidate their shared kingdom. Each day, Gilgamesh teaches Enkidu something new, or shows him more of the glories he has inherited as the twin of this greatest-ever king.

Gilgamesh has never been happier. Even the agony of Shamhat has retreated into the shadows of his sun-filled life. Uruk is even mightier than it was. But the children are quiet, for four ears listen for their approval… though two of them are listening differently.

A spirit whose happiness relies upon doing – upon conquest – is never still. Its food is more of the same. But only ‘the different’ will make Gilgamesh free… and different is thin food to the ego.

He, Gilgamesh, is somewhere else… revelling with Enkidu, perhaps.

We have entered the temple for the third act of the Lord of the Deep and there is an emotional difference in this space. For a character that is determinedly engineering his own descent into hell, there is a lot of sympathy radiating from the other players…

In a moment of shock, I realise that it is not directed at Gilgamesh, but me. And, with that revelation comes clarity of origin. 

These lovely people are supporting me, not the character Gilgamesh. 

The minds in the room know that a part must be acted, and that we are all amateurs in this endeavour. The hearts in the room see a friend, and their seeing contains a growing awareness of the inner aloneness of the king’s descent. These beautiful souls are holding me, knowing that there is nothing I or they can do to alter the doom that lies ahead. It must be endured and brought to life, fully, or the purpose of the Lord of the Deep workshop will not be fulfilled: the clever workings of the egoic self will not be laid bare for us all to see and be transformed by.

It is a situation I have never been in before. I have acted other roles since our first such workshop in 2013. I have written several of these productions. But never before have we enacted a story which so totally encapsulated the struggle of the human spirit against the reactive power of what has come to enshroud it…

I do not want these dear souls to go soft on Gilgamesh. In the scale of such teaching stories he is a self-destructive monster. The symbolic dawn – enigmatic though it is- will only come at the end of his descent. 

And yet, in the radiance of that love, there is a moment when I would not be here, halfway down that dark slope. The most powerful learning is done alone… or it feels that way, till we look back….

Ironically, Gilgamesh is happy. His relationship with the no-longer wild man, Enkidu, has blossomed into the love of brother for brother. Beyond that, even – for they could be twins. They appear to think and feel the same way, but I know what Gilgamesh does not: that Enkidu is not a gift for the king; he is a token of despair. To realise that, all Gilgamesh has to do is carry on being him-self…

The King calls. I must attend him, or the intensity will diminish. There appear to be three of us, now… which makes me wonder who ‘I’ really am…

Other parts in this series:

Part One Part Two Part Three

©Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was created by Stuart France, assisted by Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, copyright the Silent Eye.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

Gilgamesh descending (3)

Entranced by the living spell that is the movement of the Fate Dancers across their patterned marble floor, I, Gilgamesh – for the other is passive – surrender to the music of destiny and allow my eyes to be transported to a place of wildness; a place so far from the order and safety that I have built here from my children…

There is a constant whirling, and in that spinning wind I watch as six days and seven nights revolve around my throne. As the seventh takes hold, I am dragged into this killing wind which leaves me in the wilderness and watching a scene in which I may not participate, because it is controlled by Shamhat… My eyes scream at the realisation of what she is doing… triumphing over my own command, working with the Fates to unseat the sanity of her king.

The air of the watering hole is quiet, as the dance of the veils is enacted. The wild man – huge and powerful, every muscle straining to hold back his power of movement – watches, as entranced as I am by what neither of us can control.

My loins surge as I see that the woman I have loved – whose divine flesh I have worshipped like no other – has dressed herself in the thinnest of veils… Seven of them. They do not hide per pale skin; they set it on fire.

Beginning with the outer – the white veil, she moves around the beast-who-looks-like Gilgamesh, holding him paralysed by her beauty; but more by the gradual revealing of her body as she strips the thin, shining gauze from her vibrant flesh. My moaning becomes the wind, spinning around the edge of the hollow that holds the watering hole at which the Enkidu beast drinks.

My impotence is complete when the white is added as a cloak to his shoulders, followed by the red, then the grey, orange, green, black and finally yellow. Shamhat stands naked before the savage…

Then, when the screaming wind can get no louder, Shamhat lays him down on the soft earth and makes exquisite love to him… as she once did to a young king named Gilgamesh…

Far away, my throne is silent, now, Tears make my vision swim. The Fate Dancers have come to rest. They are frozen in time, looking at me. They do not act against me; they act from somewhere else, but their actions have ripped my being in two.

Time has ceased to have meaning. Days pass, here, yet the Fate Dancers remain frozen, until there comes a noise from the city walls, and a great cry goes up in the streets outside the palace. The dancers begin to move again and I know I must go out and meet this man, this anointed man, who the spinning winds say is my twin.

The vizier’s soft voice reminds me there is a bride whose marriage ceremony is complete, whose husband has been set aside to allow the king to enter their chamber… and to enter her, as the laws of Uruk – my laws – demand.

Despite the soft promise, I pull a leaden body from the throne and stride, heavy-hearted, through the palace and towards the bride’s chamber which lies across the square. The crowd is excited, but not by my presence. The Divine Council – that bunch of effete Elders – are pulling and pawing at the creature that Shamhat has supposedly civilised – this Enkidu…

They are saying, “How much like Gilgamesh he is!”

But he is not. There is none like the King. Tears form in eyes that have been, until now, all-seeing. How can they be so disloyal? Have they forgotten the glory of their ruler? Have they forgotten my hand-hewn mighty walls and how well they protect the citizens of Uruk?

The pawed one sees me and tears himself away from the Elders, glaring–then charging at me. The aggression is unmistakable. He knows my intention and intends to prevent it. The crowd retreats to a safe distance as we circle each other, four great arms extended.

In his rage, he shouts that he has been raised up by his divine union with Shamhat; and that I will not be allowed to debase the bride who is entitled to the same and should be waiting for her husband – not her king… My response is a blow to his bearded face.

We fight with such ferocity that the crowd scatters. Our battle becomes a mirror of the Fate Dancers’ whirlwind… but this is my city, this is my skill, this is my art. Mighty though he is, I use the whirling motion – learned from the Fate Dancers – to tire him. Then, at the moment when he is most distracted, I draw on my hatred of the power that made me watch the lovemaking of the wild man and my Shamhat and use it to perform my own special magic, driving him to the ground…

… But Enkidu’s hands, which the Trapper said could tame wild beasts, pull me down with him, and we fall to our knees…

Laughing…

And in our laughter, I think of Shamhat… and I steal from her this lover and make of him my brother.

Other parts in this series:

Part One Part Two

©Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was created by Stuart France, assisted by Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, copyright the Silent Eye.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

Gilgamesh descending (2)

I enter the temple at the head of the twin columns of the Dancers of Fate. Those of the kingdom enter behind their King in silent reverence as we pass the Guardian and bow our respects.

Alone, but knowing they follow, I cross the centre of the exotic floor and move towards the east of the temple. The gold-draped chair is waiting. I turn and stand, watching the precise formation of Fate Dancers peel away left and right, to literally flow down the circumference of the large circle that is the enneagram; the heart of this temple of the mysteries.

All wait for the King. I take a deep breath before beginning. He is waiting in the space around the golden chair… The familiar feel of an autocratic king from thousands of years ago.

I realise that I am the break in his continuity. Settling into the seated vessel, once more, this ancient king breaks with tradition and gazes across to look at the woman who is half human, half goddess – Ninsun, his mother. The memory is still fresh in his mind: the dream of the rock that fell from the sky to the ground, the way it was adored – the way he hugged and loved it! His strong body curls with the strangeness of it; the embarrassment of how he knelt before her as in a trance, asking her to tell him what it meant…

A friend, Ninsun had said. Even a man capable of being a brother! He was to come into my life… I can feel the King’s astonishment, even though I know he is cuniform words in clay from nearly three thousand years ago. And then the separation leaves us… and there is just Gilgamesh the King on his large throne, whose arms curl up into two wooden hands that hold his beloved sword. He is calm… purposeful. But the most powerful man in the world knows that world is changing.

He was beloved of the Gods, he knew. Why else had the world fallen at his feet? Surely, he had nothing to fear.

Now, there is no more time to indulge the mystery. The women are dancing again and he must watch, captivated. The women known as the Fate Dancers had devised these movements for his pleasure, though he divined the hidden hand of the gods in the way it stroked his heart, like a lyre whose music was not heard, but felt.

Everyone in the royal palace loved the hypnotic flow of the Fates’ dance. Shamhat had even petitioned him to let them make its gliding patterns permanent in the floor of the royal chamber. And he had agreed; at a great cost to the royal purse… for the dancers, but most of all for her. For Shamhat.

But that had been before she refused his advances, saying she had served her time and no longer answered to him but to the Divine Council, alone. His fingers grip the blade of his sword. No other circumstance in the world could have frustrated him like this! The Fate Dancers dance on… unperturbed.

“Shamhat!” He spits out the word. The High Priestess’s name etches a bitter taste on his tongue… Before him, like flickers of half-seen light, the Fate Dancers maintain the perfection of their movements; but Gilgamesh, with his hawk-like vision, sees their eyes flicker, before, smiling, his fingertips bid them continue.

Shamhat! He would make her pay for her public refusal to share her bed with the God King. But it would have to be subtle. Like him, she was partly God, partly human… and clever.

He looks down from his throne at the elegant and beautiful movements across the glistening white floor of his chamber. The Fate Dancers’ feet follow a pattern of lines that intersect the large circle at nine points. Three of them are formed into a triangle bounded by golden stars set into the white crystals. The other six lines intersect like the ghostly pattern of a gemstone and their intersections with the circle are marked with stars of dark blue lapis lazuli.

All this had been created for Shamhat, working – he now saw – to aid in this strange contest of the mind and body with which she saw fit to challenge his authority. But he loved the movements of the dancers. So much so that he could feel his world shifting each time they began to flow across the magical glyph before him.

There would be time to fix this, he thought to himself, settling back into his throne and reaching for his golden cup of mead.

He must have dozed off… Before him, the floor design glitters in the flickering light of the tallow candles. A rough man dressed in furs kneels at the edge of the court and he could sense another behind him. Gilgamesh reaches for his sword, but the vizier’s hand stops him, gently.

“My apologies, King Gilgamesh, I sought not to disturb your rest. There is no threat.”

Gilgamesh lets go the grip on his sword. “That is a dangerous place to stand, even for a royal vizier!”

The vizier bows and points at the kneeling supplicant. “He has news we felt you would wish to know, especially in these… uncertain times.”

Gilgamesh can taste the dawning of the new in the air all around him.

“Speak, man!” he shouts at the trapper. “If what you say is true, let us have no ceremony. What is it you have seen?”

“Why, I have seen a giant, my king!”

The king laughs, refreshed, relaxed and alert. He is amused. Good-naturedly, he tells the trapper that he has been listening to tavern stories. The man protests and the king is about to dismiss him as a fool when he realises that the description of the powerful and fleet wild man is remarkably close to how he, the king, would be described by a stranger, had he lived from the land.

“There is truth in your voice,” Gilgamesh concludes. Reluctantly, he asks the trapper why this has such importance that he risks his life coming to the royal palace to report it.

“My Lord,” says the trembling man, “he could be your very twin.”

Gilgamesh takes a breath and gazes upwards, letting it out slowly. No-one can see his smile.

Time passes. The royal chamber is empty, apart from the king. The tallow candles have burned low. They are making sputtering noises in their flickering death. Gilgamesh follows the spirals of soot high into the dimness of the chamber.

He is pleased with himself. The trapper has been despatched to find the high priestess, who will be told that she is to use her divine arts to seduce and civilise the wild twin. He knows that this action will open up a new sea of possibilities, but he does not care.

All that matters is that he will have vengeance on the woman he used to love…

Other parts in this series:

Part One,

©Stephen Tanham

Lord of the Deep, the Silent Eye’s 2019 April workshop, was created by Stuart France, assisted by Sue Vincent.

This narrative is a personal journey through that ritual drama in the persona of Gilgamesh.

Header image by Sue Vincent, copyright the Silent Eye.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.

Gilgamesh descending (1)

Julius Caesar, speaking after winning an important battle in Asia Minor, is quoted as saying ‘I came, I saw, I conquered…’

The same cannot be said for Gilgamesh the King – one of Julius Caesar’s mighty empire-building forebears, who ruled the land of Sumer from the city of Uruk in the southernmost region of Mesopotamia. The story of King Gilgamesh may or may not be based upon fact. Its importance to our lives – and probably survival – is due to it being an unusual kind of story: one that contains the power to initiate inner change in the human mind and heart.

The epic of Gilgamesh was written down in fragments, beginning 2,500 years ago. It is a mysterious tale, and was seen as ideal for adaptation to the Silent Eye’s purposes by the writing team of Stuart France and Sue Vincent (France and Vincent).

Planes, trains and automobiles. Friday, April 26th finally arrives and an excited group assembles at the Nightingale Centre in the tiny village of Great Hucklow – a gem within the Derbyshire hills. Stuart had chosen the epic of Gilgamesh two years prior as the basis for the 2019 Silent Eye workshop. A great deal of work had been put in by he and Sue to bring it to life. Now, we were costumed, breathing deeply, silent and lined up for entry into what would become our emotional and spiritual home for the next two and a half days…. The word ‘intense’ is appropriate, but not sufficient.

Where Caesar enjoyed conquest, the Silent Eye’s retelling of the story of Gilgamesh begins with failure – the failure of the King to persuade his former lover to sleep with him. She is Shamhat – the magical and sexually skilled high-priestess of Uruk; Uruk the city of gold and tall walls, rebuilt by the purposeful hands of the King, himself – rebuilt so that what is within can be safe… The children sleep safely in their beds, but…

Within a mystical play of this nature, the key words always have meanings beyond their obvious ones…. both must fit the story and, ultimately, carry us through into a new perspective. When that transformation is done within a group understanding, the voyage across the emotional ocean is to a new reality.

One reading of the original texts of the legend of Gilgamesh will show that the modern world did not invent graphic sex. The potency of sexual force was known and deeply explored by that ancient society – as it was across so much of the ancient world in a time before the censoring authority of Christianity began to bend the original meaning of the word ‘evil’. The cost of this crushing of the predominantly feminine power was that we lost the living presence of the divine feminine and our priestesses – and the world was a poorer and less compassionate place.

Shamhat was the priestess of that ancient place – and, allegorically, would call upon her sexual force within the play to great effect. But, she begins our story by denying it to Gilgamesh, an act that demonstrates to those present that there is something very wrong with their iconic relationship…

Gilgamesh has laboured hard to make Uruk safe.

But, in Stuart’s words laid before us in the script, the children of Uruk are not entirely safe… They ‘cry themselves to sleep at night’. Their vulnerability is not sexual, though; it is of the soul.

Their mighty king has conquered all, beginning with restoring his own place to the throne, lost after the premature death of his great father – a man he barely knew.

Gilgamesh can and does have everything he needs, including his pick of the first night of lovemaking with every bride on her wedding night. In our own, Norman-derived history we know it as the ‘droit de seigneur’; and it was an enduring statement of the abuse of feudal male power for thousands of years after Gilgamesh strode the walls of Uruk in his lonely anguish.

This man, this king, has nothing to fear. The whole world bows before him… except Shamhat, who thus becomes the ‘thing’ he wants the most.

This was the backdrop for Silent Eye’s annual workshop: Lord of the Deep. Possibly the most intense three days I have ever lived through – and not by choice. Despite many attempts on my part (and Stuart’s, once he realised I was serious) to find another to take it on, I ended up playing the role of this doomed king. Gilgamesh is descending in the title of this series of blogs – borrowed from its use in astrology – because his life is about to descend into a private hell on earth.

Those familiar with the spiritual and psychological work done in a ‘temple of the mysteries’ will know the intensity that builds, as each stage of the working is brought from idea to breath to reality.

Gilgamesh, mighty and all-powerful ruler of the fabled city of Uruk was angry. The children were not sleeping peacefully in their beds, and the forces of chaos were about to (metaphorically) clash with the quiet peace of that Derbyshire village. To enter into these workings is to be changed… there is no escaping that result.

It had begun… and none of us really knew where it was going to end. A script is only a part of what actually happens on these occasions. It was not a question of being surrounded by ill-wishers – quite the opposite. It was a matter of knowing what lay ahead as the emotional journey began. I would need those friends around me, even though Gilgamesh the character appeared to have few of them.

When you undertake such a role, you have to give yourself over to it; letting its nature emerge and giving it a real home. Effectively, each player becomes a vessel for the inner story. Once that inner story is begun there is no let up – not if you want to do justice to the transformative nature of the weekend.

So, now – reliving that Friday – we shift to the living present… and pick up the bound scripts or digital tablets within which the two-hundred pages of our immediate future are inscribed. There begins music that pulls at the heart, then the courtiers pass the palace Guardian and file into the temple room behind their revered King Gilgamesh. A breath; a final glance at the opening words. Gilgamesh is angry… I breathe even more deeply; I have no idea why this emotion is so intense. But his existential lava flows into my own soul the minute I begin speaking… and my voice changes, all by itself.

Run, children, run.

©Stephen Tanham

Header image by Sue Vincent, copyright the Silent Eye.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism 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.