THEOSOPHY, Vol. 41, No. 7, May, 1953
(Pages 315-319; Size: 14K)


[Article number (18) in this Q&A Department]

WHAT is the extent of influence that an actor portraying an evil role in a drama of moral worth has upon the audience? Is the actor attuning himself to evil?

Plays of moral worth must have their villains and tempters to dramatize the moral idea behind the play. As we well know, a thing can only be known in its relation to other things. The contrast drawn between good and evil serves to emphasize more strongly the good. That hero is more truly and forcibly heroic after battling with and conquering the villain, than is the hero of whom it is merely stated that he is a hero, representing the forces of good. Such goodness would seem to be static, devoid of the struggle which gives it power.

The influence of such an evil character on the audience might be vast, and then again might be completely nil, depending upon the individuals comprising that audience. Each has his own free will to exercise as he sees fit. If a man refuses the influence of evil which is thrust upon him, it cannot have any effect. On the other hand, the vibrations of evil are very real and exist, if not for the strong, who can thrust them off, then at least for the weak who can not.

The influence of the portrayal of evil characters sometimes seems to settle on the head of the actor himself and may prove to be extremely dangerous. For there are those actors who lose themselves completely in the portrayal of a character. So involved, there would exist the possibility of attracting to himself the kamarupas of actual characters of that type. Such a state would seem to be very strongly akin to mediumship and could be harmful to both actor and audience.

It is a known fact that certain actors will get themselves so involved in a role that it is quite some time after their exit from the stage (or movie set) before they can get themselves back to normal. For instance, it is often difficult for an actor who has just been violently weeping in a scene to, upon his exit, "turn off the tears." Also, in some few cases a complete personality change occurs in which the actor becomes like the character he is portraying. He may remain so for the duration of the play or possibly longer. This would indicate need of exercising extreme caution on the part of any actor, and a control which can only be gained by a recognition of the reality of the soul.

The soul has as its immediate goal mastery over "the situation." And at every moment "the situation" is present, whether it be seen as a set of circumstances without or a set of conflicts within. Men, then, whether actors or not, should not allow the idea of the ego to be pushed so far in the background that they may lose sight of what man really is -- the Self -- and become identified with the bundle of emotions and feelings that make up the character he, as an actor, is assuming.

H.P.B. brings out a similar idea in The Secret Doctrine (II, 306), stating in relation to reincarnation--

Intimately, or rather indissolubly, connected with Karma, then, is the law of re-birth, or of the re-incarnation of the same spiritual individuality in a long, almost interminable, series of personalities. The latter are like the various costumes and characters played by the same actor, with each of which that actor identifies himself and is identified by the public, for the space of a few hours. The inner or real man, who personates those characters, knows the whole time that he is Hamlet for the brief space of a few acts, which represent, however, on the plane of human illusion the whole life of Hamlet. And he knows that he was, the night before, King Lear, the transformation in his turn of the Othello of a still earlier preceding night; but the outer, visible character is supposed to be ignorant of the fact. In actual life that ignorance is, unfortunately, but too real.
In preventing oneself from becoming fully identified with anything less than the permanent Self, the motive inspiring any endeavor should be of prime consideration. The term "moral worth" denotes a central theme of inspiration and high ethical value; all roles within a play of philosophical intent are designed to point out, ultimately, that value. The great actor, then, would be beyond any evil influence, but would see his role in its true significance -- as an aid in the development of the moral implications of the central theme.

Does Theosophy, and do groups of associates formed by Theosophical students, provide an outlet for the religious instinct in man? Many features of orthodox religion, one of which is ritualism, seem to give believers a "sense of balance" for their psychic natures.

Since statistics show (Preface to Philosophy, 1946) that within six of the world's major religions there are: 675 million Christians; 250 million Confucians; 250 million Moslems; 245 million Hindus; 150 million Jews, it seems reasonable to conclude that every civilization has been accompanied by some kind of religious expression. But, from a Theosophical standpoint, formal observances are not regarded as the only outlet for man's "religious instinct." Overemphasis upon ritual must stem from the general misconception as to the meaning of religion. Naturally, if there is "belief" in an outside God, there will be dependence on the "outer," and ritualistic devotion to mere form will develop. Many factors contribute to this result, such as the great cultural malady of insecurity, which drives men to constantly look for emotional aids or for an authority supplying firm directions for conduct. Such invariably shy away from facing themselves, and ritualism makes this self-alienation even more attractive.

Of course, there is such a thing as true ritualism, which, when coupled with a true understanding of the laws of life, can produce beneficial results, but there are probably few who in this day know its proper use. Many of the American Indians, who once lived and worked with the laws of nature, and who understood true ritualism for the very reason that they did live according to nature, now find their traditional mode of life too difficult to maintain.

Just as ritualism has two sides, duality applies also to man's religious instinct. The very derivation of the word, religion, would bear this out in that it comes from the Latin "religio" meaning restraint or taboo -- and is also taken from "religare" meaning to bind together. The "sense of balance" gained through ritualism, though, applies alone to the psychic nature, and there is a wide gap between comforting emotionalism and mental devotion. The former, however -- passive reliance on forms -- is what people generally refer to in speaking of the religious instinct. This passivity, if indulged, can but pull man towards negativism or even to mediumship. True Religion is The Way, the Path Uphill, not rest by the roadside. Hence, the true religious spirit is the soul's yearning and longing for knowledge of the higher purposes of Self -- its striving to know Itself.

Since the religious instinct is inherent in all men, at least potentially, such outer masks as "religionism" or "agnosticism" could hardly affect its deep-seated reality. The outlets of this creative drive assume countless forms, for wherever we find MAN reaching upward -- aspiring in his great music, the great Arts, in his noble idealisms; wherever the Good, the True, and the Beautiful are sought, there the religious spirit of creativity and solidarity is manifest.

Turning our ideas toward the Associates of U.L.T., however, enables us to be more specific. For then when we think of outlets for man's religious nature, we can refer to the very different appeal of such a doctrine as the "lighting" of Buddhi-Manas, possible for the Race as a whole. There are many available channels of expression which afford direct development and growth of this sort. For the victory of manas over the lower quaternary entails the strengthening and maturation of a higher power, through consistent expression, writing, and contemplation. No other system of thought, we think, is better suited as the focal point for directing psychic energies than Theosophy, the Wisdom-Religion. By contributing creatively (i.e., manasically) through both the natural channels provided by U.L.T. and the less definitive channels of the Theosophical Movement at large, we may find "psychic balance." [Note: "U.L.T." means "The United Lodge of Theosophists".--Compiler]

When two people dislike each other and one attempts reconciliation with evident failure, what should his attitude and course of action be? Should he cease further attempts? How does he finally work such a thing out, and is he the one to determine the answer?

(a) Without an understanding of Karma one would have little reason to pursue reconciliation. Theosophy teaches the fulfilling of duties for the simple reason that they confront us, but we may also come to see more particular reasons. A dislike may be "many lives" old, and if so, it could hardly be straightened out in a few years. To cease striving to be friendly would be to question the universality of brotherhood. It would be to put off and increase the karmic debt between the two. An opportunity would be lost which might be a gateway to better things.

"Not giving up" still leaves several courses of action. Antagonism might be lessened if friendly advances are made at a "proper" time -- a natural occasion. A gain might be made by just controlling the old feelings. Even without the cooperation of the other party involved, it is possible for one to settle his own debt in the matter. So evident failure shouldn't dissuade one from what seems obligatory.

(b) The motive of the person in desiring reconciliation should be looked into. If he desires the friendship of the other merely to set his own mind at rest and assure himself that he is well liked, his attempts sooner or later will lose their sincerity and ultimately defeat his purpose through their lack of genuineness. If that person desires reconciliation because he abhors the viciousness of the situation and wants to act in a brotherly way, he should, working on that basis, be able to see whether or not his efforts are actually helping the situation or antagonizing the other person to such a degree that "brotherhood" is further away than ever. Sometimes a mental attitude will accomplish more than an hour's handshaking. The same medium that produced the animosity should be used to express a kindly mental feeling. The person who desires reconciliation should look first into himself and see whether the animosity he feels has a container in himself -- because he cannot contain and maintain that for which he has no capacity.

(c) Perhaps if we attempt to correct the fault in ourselves and not go out of our way to be "over"-friendly, the occasion might arise when we would have a natural time to show our improved feelings.

The individual who is sincere in his desire to learn should first attempt to search within himself for those qualities which may add coals to the fire. We know that often the faults that are seen in others are merely reflections of our weaknesses. If the sincere person works to improve himself he at least refuses to allow further animosity to develop.

How could intelligence be defined so that the difference between the intelligence of the self-conscious being and that of the intelligences of nature will be clear? For instance, how could electricity be said to be intelligent? Man's intelligence is creative, but nature is only repetitive.

It could be said that only intelligent beings move according to Law, order, and in universal harmony. This would be why only intelligent matter can be directed or moulded to man's purposes. This is why there can be no dead matter. Natural intelligence creates and re-creates the forms from the patterns created by the intelligence of man. It might be said, too, that the highest goal of matter, as such, is the closest and most direct association with human intelligence. The ether spoken of in Isis Unveiled could be considered a kind of matter, evolved to such a degree that it can transmit men's words and even their thoughts and feelings.

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(June 1953)
[Article number (19) in this Q&A Department]

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