IN THE MAGIC THEATER
SEPTEMBER 4, 2011. Well, we have Shakespeare’s famous versions:
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…”
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more…”
But no. Not “merely” players. Not “and then is heard no more.”
There is potentially much more to it than that.
JL Moreno, the unheralded genius who invented Psychodrama, realized a person playing a role in a significant, theatrical, improvised dialogue with another person, could and would experience significant breakthroughs.
The dialogue needed certain requirements. The roles had to be important. Father talks to son. Son talks to father. When, finally, the son establishes his position in the dialogue, when he gains power, then the roles are switched, and the son plays the father, and vice versa. Then, the energy explosions occur. Then the crystallized status quo shatters. Then energy flows again.
Of course, I’m giving you the shorthand account here.
From here I take off and go to other places.
Because it turns out that reality as we find it, ordinary reality, physical reality, social reality, political reality, economic reality, space-time-energy reality…they ALL set up crystallized conditions between “subject and object,” between an individual (subject) and a personage who represents any of these realities (object).
And there is an energy lock-up occurring below the surface of these relationships. A status quo. A frozen dynamic of forces.
In this way, freedom and power are limited.
Understand me. I’m not trying to paint a grim picture of an overall static existence. I’m saying that, besides whatever degree of freedom and power a given individual has, there is an unexplored domain where more of his power is confined.
And a way to explore it and liberate the energy and the power is through live dialogue in a theatrical setting. Not in a written stage play. In a simple improvised situation. In a room.
Let us say I am the “guide.” Let us say I play God, and you play YOU. We talk to each other, no holds barred. The dialogue can go anywhere.
When we reach a point where you have established some “position” and degree and feeling of power, we switch roles. Now you are God, and I am you. And a new improvised dialogue is launched.
Or: I am David Rockefeller and you are you. In dialogue. And then we switch.
Or: I am the Pope and you are you. And then we switch.
I am an angry, resentful sub-human carrying a flaming torch and you are flying in the air, free, above me. And then we switch.
I am the Universe and you are you. And then we switch.
I am a steel wall a hundred feet thick and you are you. And then we switch.
I am a horrendous boss, and you are you. And then we switch.
I am Stalin and you are you. And then we switch.
I am a terrorist and you are you. And then we switch.
I am The Joker and you are Batman. And then we switch.
I am a slavemaster and you are a victim. And then we switch.
I am a feudal lord and you are a poor peasant. And then we switch.
I am the dumb, idiotic viewer of paintings, and you are the brilliant revolutionary artist. And then we switch.
I’m the hard-headed realist snob and you are the true psychic. And then we switch.
I’m a white-power Aryan, and you are Barack Obama. And then we switch.
I’m Dick Cheney and you’re a socialist revolutionary. And then we switch.
I’m a clandestine global banker and you’re a conspiracy researcher. And then we switch.
I’m a bottle of booze, and you’re an alcoholic. And then we switch.
And so on and so forth.
A personage of power speaks with a personage of much less power. And then we switch.
This is all based on the fact that the individual assumes certain types of people or certain forces have more power than he does. This is key. This sets up the dynamic, in consciousness, of a primary illusion. Yes, illusion. Because, underneath it all, the individual actually has great power.
The illusion is: your power is limited—and theatrically, so to speak, this is represented by a set of relationships with “those who hold the real power.”
Reality, below the surface, is theatrical.
But the play is frozen in mid-stride.
The journey involves unfreezing it.
Yes, in an important way, life IS theater. The solution is to play it out.
The person who believes he has less power CONCEIVES OF HIS SITUATION IN TERMS OF A RELATIONSHIP WITH “THOSE WHO HOLD THE REAL POWER.” This is his way of explaining why he has less power. Understanding this is crucial.
When I developed the exercises in my audio seminar, The Transformations, I was opening up energy. I was presenting ways in which the individual could project energy across space. These techniques change the status quo. They reveal that an individual can use energy in a non-physical way. A non-technological way. Doing the exercises breaks apart many crystallizations. Frozen rivers run again. Much more energy becomes available. Paranormal events can happen.
Leading forward from there, we come to this theater of the psyche. The magic theater.
And in the magic theater, anyone or anything can speak and enter into dialogue. A chair, a galaxy, a black hole, a cigarette, a phantom, a ghost, a universe, an imperious unattainable lover, a father, a son, a dead friend, a supernova, a magician, a snail, a penniless beggar, a terminally ill person, a doctor, a slumlord, Karl Marx, Attila the Hun, Jesus, Buddha, a murderer, a TV set, Bill Gates, a glass of water, a photon, a dragon, a parallel dimension, a painting, a door, a stone, a desert, ice cream, jell-o, an iceberg…they can all enter into dialogue and you can speak with them and AS them. There is no limit on the dialogues that can be set up between Two.
NOW REALITY EXPANDS.
Now, the whole notion of frozen roles dissolves.
Now, imagination comes into play with enormous strength and fluidity.
Now you are not only you talking to a tiger in a zoo, you are also the tiger talking to you. Or to a forest.
Everything we decided reality could not be cracks open like a walnut.
And as we gain our “sea legs,” we realize how limited our notion of reality was.
THIS IS THEATER.
The boundaries and obstacles we set up, in order to define reality and feel familiar with it, fall away.
This is magic.
And the fantastic result is: you are more you than ever before.
When I wrote that people are stuffed into limited roles in a societal stage play, THIS is what I meant.
We have taken on, with great certainty, a very, very limited conception of what reality is, and we have bought it lock, stock, and barrel. We’ve decided we know all about reality, we’re very smart, we’re very keen, we’re very aware, we’re masters of information, we know all about what’s really going on behind the scene, we don’t need to learn anything new, we’re tight and right and super-perceptive.
But you see, ALL THIS is taking place within the reality we’ve defined and bought and paid for. All this is taking place within the context we accept.
And, believe me, this is fine. No problem. It’s quite okay. It’s life as we seem to find it. I have no quarrel with any of this. It’s just that there is an opening to MORE. Much more. And every step we take on this NEW road is ours, it’s dialogue as we improvise it—no restricting system, no rules, no demands, no super King Kong at the end of the road who says he’s in charge.
It’s the liberation of endless energy and power.
It cracks the cosmic egg.
The magic theater.
Hints and clues and breakthroughs come in the work of Hesse, JL Moreno, Fritz Perls, the old Tibetan magicians, and many others. We find traces of it in ancient Greek tragedy, where local citizens were chosen to play the characters in these dramas, which is where my friend, Richard Jenkins, an extraordinary healer picked up his first clues and passed them on to me in 1961. Richard was also quite interested in the “merging” exercises of Tibetan magicians, as described in Alexandra David-Neel’s great books. He told me:
“I can expand the healing process with a patient by becoming him for a few minutes. It’s as if he and I are talking to each under the surface. He’s telling me his story, and I’m telling him mine. A switch occurs. He takes on my persona and I take on his. We experience that. And then the possibilities open up. Healing becomes easy. It’s like a dialogue…”
In an expanded view of theater, a person can inhabit any character, personage, archetype, physical object, force, idea, process—and he can then speak as that thing. What was formerly considered dead, neutral, silent, gone, unattainable comes alive.
Ordinary reality can be seen as a kind of formula, through which we say, “Well, I can feel and touch A,B,C,D, and E, but I can’t touch anything else.” That is how we shape what we take to be reality.
However, in the The Magic Theater, all bets are off. We not only touch what was out of reach, we talk to it, and we talk AS it. This is imagination at work in a most profound way.
And the release of energy, in the process, is extraordinary, as walls fall.
One day in 1961, I watched Richard Jenkins work with a patient. The patient had been in therapy for some years, and he told Richard that it was going nowhere. He said the most interesting thing about it was A GREEN PHANTOM. During therapy, for no reason he could ascertain—except that he was quite bored with the whole business—he began to muse on a character he’d dreamed about as a child. A green phantom. The more he mused, the more interesting the phantom became. He was like the trickster god, Hermes, flying around and stealing things from people’s homes.
Richard said, “Let’s have a conversation with him. I’ll be the phantom.”
For an hour or so, they engaged in dialogue. The whole demeanor of the patient changed. The pallor on his cheeks disappeared. He became animated and happy. Then Richard told him, “Let’s switch. You’ll be the phantom…”
In the next hour, I could feel energy explosions in Richard’s studio. The patient went through a whole gamut of emotions. He was projecting forces and energies and feelings of great power.
At the end of it, he said, “Now this is what I call living!”
He stood up from his chair and looked at me and said, “Remember what you saw here today. This is alchemy. My body is alive for the first time in ten years. I finally know what space is. It’s ten times larger than when I walked in here.”
I did remember.
Two weeks after that session, the patient discovered he could “home in” on conversations a hundred yards away from his house and hear what was being said as clear as a bell. He was a composer, and he had been struggling to write music that, as he said, “would bring in the rhythms of planets in their orbits.” From that moment on, the struggle ceased. He picked up his primary instrument, the saxophone, and he began to play that music. The importance of this for him couldn’t be overstated. He ceased being unhappy. He was transformed. The “before and after” was astonishing.
Richard’s comment was: The man had been trying to fit an expanded reality into ordinary reality, and because he thought allegiance to ordinary reality was obligatory, he was caught in a mouse trap. Now he was free. He was injecting such power into his own reality, life was ecstatic.