MAGIC AND THEATER
SEPTEMBER 12, 2011. In ancient Athens, theater was brand new. It had never been done fully and freely, prior to that time. Anywhere.
In Athens, you had full-blown tragedies, comedies, and satires performed on stage, and actors even played gods! And local citizens were recruited for some roles.
Of course, later scholars spent their lives analyzing the content and meaning of the plays, but didn’t really bother to highlight the fact that introducing theater to a culture is a revolution.
Because people begin to realize in such cultures that ANYTHING can be a role. Anything can be acted out.
“You mean the high priest of yaba-doo, who runs the temple, might be just a good actor with a script? Hmm…”
If the ancient Egyptians had the sort of theater the Greeks did, who knows how many theocratic dynasties might have been prevented?
Which is, of course, why the Egyptians didn’t have real theater.
In 1969, I wrote a poem called The Age of the Actor. One line reads: “And in the many little republics, dying out, the joining of a great theater.” The poem was based on the idea that, now, we look back on the past as if the people living in it were “merely” acting out parts, but of course, we consider ourselves realists. Non-actors.
It would take me many years to realize the full implications of the poem.
And one of those implications is embodied in the dichotomy between stillness and action. Silence/introspection vs. action. Both qualities are extraordinary when played out far enough, but unfortunately, people tend to be hooked on stillness. Once they get a taste of it, they feel it’s a safer position.
That’s why, for example, they prefer meditation to art. And by art I mean doing art.
Profound stillness and peace do allow a flexibility of being to emerge. But if one doesn’t make anything of that, it tends to soften and become mushy.
In the magic theater, the dynamic principle is primary. And of course, when a person plays many roles and speaks spontaneously from them, one result is more energy.
Some roles will produce more liberated energy than others. My job in the Magic Theater is to find those roles for a given person. They can be fairly obvious or not obvious at all.
With one client, it was “the manager of a galactic factory.” I pounced on that idea spontaneously. I mean, people don’t walk around wearing a sign that says, “I want to play the role of a galactic manager.” But I felt something on that order might produce fireworks. And it did.
The person, as he began speaking from the role, as he worked his way into it, took on enormous energies, as if he already knew the part well. His autocratic, outgoing managerial persona was in direct contradiction to his chronic stillness, developed during long years of meditation.
When he was done with the galactic manager role, after a few hours, he looked like he had just walked out of a cosmic steam bath. His face had lost its sallow cast.
He started talking about new plans for the future, plans he’d been sitting on for a long time. Suddenly, what he really wanted seemed possible.
The other thing was, he dropped his attitude of already knowing everything it was important to know. Prior to that moment, it had been his central character trait. He had been “the master of hidden spiritual secrets.” (He and I would get to that role later.)
The Magic Theater works in fabulous ways.
In society, those who know more and can do more often end up in charge of people who know less and can do less. But there is something interesting when we adjust the terms of this formulation: those who can play the role of knowing more and doing more are in charge of those who play the role of knowing less and doing less.
I’m not saying people who are more capable shouldn’t occupy senior positions. I’m saying the whole basis of the hierarchy can be expanded to come closer to the truth of things.
To the benefit of everyone.
Because every role, any role, when played out long enough, tends to become stifling and dreary. What makes it dreary is the lack of spontaneity and change. And the concomitant decline of energy.
You are you, but you can take on other roles and you can speak as them and from them.
And when you do that, a process begins. You not only gain a wider understanding of life, you become more creative, more energetic, more powerful.
I continue to plan the first live seminar for the Magic Theater. I’ve received emails from a few of you expressing interest. One objective of the seminar will be to prepare attendees to continue the work after they go home, via phone/Skype with partners. In the seminar itself, people will play several roles with each other. They’ll get the feel of the process.
When I plan the whole thing, and settle on a date and place, I’ll give you details.
I once thought I wanted to start a school for actors. It turns out that was a half-idea, and the Magic Theater was and is its full realization.
The idea that each one of us can create his own reality takes on new meaning in the Magic Theater. We can, for example, play the roles of “the person who has achieved his goals,” and “the person who doesn’t arrive at fulfillment.” This is a very interesting wrinkle. It blows open obstacles and uncertainties. It dissolves polarities.
The Magic Theater is an ongoing enterprise. It isn’t a quick piece of work. It can move from sub-microscopic entities as roles all the way up to multiple universes and beyond.
As I’ve mentioned before, Hesse, in his famous novel, Steppenwolf, introduces The Magic Theater as a place where people can find wider meaning in the stream of their lives. I believe he came to that notion when he realized that the quest for spiritual fulfillment, as he played it out in his novels, possessed a distinctly theatrical quality. This is was a stupendous discovery.
Rather than pursuing magic or illumination or enlightenment or fulfillment as a strictly straight-line proposition, a moving from A to Z, he re-cast the pursuit as BOTH straight-line AND theater.
In his final novel, Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game, despite the fact that all the master-teachers in his fictional cloister were profound experts in their fields of endeavor, Hesse kept hold of the idea that the school-cloister was a kind of theater. He knew he had something vital in that premise, and he never left it behind.
In the Magic Theater, as I’ve invented it for my work, the incomprehensible, the baffling, the puzzling, the obstructed, the bored, the fatigued, the successful-but-dissatisfied, the aspiring, the controlling, the rulers, the rebels are all given a platform from which to speak. As characters, improvised, in dialogue.
Not because the process offers straight-line solutions, but because straight-line solutions eventually yield fewer results. Instead, by these theatrical means, resolutions occur as breakthroughs into larger spaces, greater energies—and the exact manner by which the resolutions take place can’t be traced. It can’t be given step-by-step analysis. Step-by-step analysis is impossible, because what is driving the whole enterprise is imagination, which succeeds because it moves beyond prediction.
It’s important to note that human response/cultural response tends to seek out the One as the answer. There is one solution, one state of mind to aspire to, one goal, one focus, one secret, one key to magic. In truth, this mindset is an obstruction. It is proliferation that holds answers—and what could be more abundant than a theatrical setting in which a person can play out many roles and, thereby, break through into more profound magic and power?
New spaces, new energies, new roles—that is what drove the incredible response to the original Star Trek series, and Star Wars. But after a burst of energy in the NASA space program, the whole business died down. No leader could or would set a priority of space travel for the human race and make it stick. The fervor cooled. The potential roles faded.
I maintain that, if taken far enough, the Magic Theater can become far more thrilling. It can take us to another platform of dynamic consciousness, where we shape societies on a different basis, one which we haven’t yet invented.
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