The Sacred Art of Theater

Updated: Sep 11, 2018

Why Does an Ashram Have a Drama Department?


An Ashram is a manifestation of the ancient traditional archetype of the Wisdom School. Such institutions in earlier times were also referred to in various cultures as Mystery Schools. The guardians of the Mysteries were the Thespians: the Actors.


Prema plays Nina in the ashram production of Chekhov's The Seagull

At first, the plays were kept secret, only to be viewed by initiates. They dealt directly with the unveiled power of the Mysteries of Being. The Mystery Schools grew in tandem with the Philosophic Academies. In these Academies, the best known of which in Greece was the Pythagorean/Platonic School, the fruit of the Mysteries was developed as Love of the Goddess of Wisdom, Sophia, and flourished in the form of Reason and its capacities to give birth to the practical mysteries of techne. These included all the technological potencies of consciousness, including mathematics, logic, rhetoric, astrological understanding, our inner relation to Nature, and the even greater gifts of the Supernatural dimension, the special offerings of the powers of the gods.


The Roman Empire later became threatened by the profusion of Mystery Schools, and turned one form of Christianity from a Mystery School into a state-sponsored dogmatic religion, which was used to destroy its competitors and keep the minds of seekers of Wisdom under control of the secular political and military authorities.


During the period of initial development of the Greek Mystery Schools, an exoteric form of drama was developed for the edification of the general public. But even after the secret and sacred performances had to go underground, due to persecution, the exoteric theatrical performances of what came to be known as the archetypal forms of tragedy, pathos, and comedy kept alive the original kernel of relation to the deeper Mysteries.


The art of theater flourished in secular forms, because of its still-living essence that transmitted in socially adapted forms that were still able to transgress the red lines of political correctness through their psychological subtexts, some of the explosive power of Truth, which, though veiled and cleverly disguised by great playwrights as mere histories and domestic melodramas and piquant entertainments, kept their more potent energies secretly cultivated by adept directors, and thus retained the ability to transform lives.


In our current postmodern period of cultural exhaustion, the question is often asked whether theater is dead. Because of the demands of the market in a capitalist context, the financial cost of grand theatrical production, and the compromises necessary to cope with the curse of commercialization of the art, live theater moved away from the traditional set forms into the more free form of improvisation and the theater game milieu. But well crafted scripts retained their more coherent power of incisive psychic surgery to open closed Hearts to the energies of Being.


An Omprov! Class at the ashram

Live theater also had to compete with the new art of cinema, with its technologically augmented capacities for special effects and globalized performance. Many of the most gifted playwrights and directors shifted into the making of film scripts and cinematic presentations. But movies cannot offer the same magic as a live performance in the energy field of a confined space in which the power of dramatic Presence attains its fullness of glory in the work of masterful actors who understand their real function as transmitters of the Mysteries of Being. Theater remains as the strong arm of esoteric Philosophy in its capacity to realize Truth and deliver its power into the Hearts of the audience participants.


The sacred use and sublimation of profane existence in dramatic performance, even in these times in which the heroic features of classical culture have atrophied, give theater its ongoing psychopharmacological capacity to turn poison into the medicine of spiritual healing and transfiguration. Thus it remains as an essential ingredient in an authentic Wisdom School’s arsenal of implements for the development of the secret Powers of concentrated consciousness.


An Ashram, as a residential community of seekers of this sacred Power, thus must continue the ancient tradition of using Theater as an instrument for the activation of the potencies of Liberated Personality. This thrust of the divinized art form of Drama into the Vortex of the Real enables true initiation into the Secrets of the Mystery to be passed on with flawless impact on the souls of the participants. And the genius of great playwriting and performance confers all the power that the Great Tradition has endowed it with, once our understanding of its native function has been gained through the rite of passage of catharsis that the study and ordeal of acting can alone provide—and that the laughter and the tears brought effortlessly into the Hearts of participants as pure information and recognition of our inner Being can alone deliver.


Theater is the midwife of Deliverance. In the context of an Ashram, Deliverance from ignorance into the realization of the Mysteries permits the graduated empowerment and awakening of the highest levels of awareness of the One, the Good, and the Real of our timeless and deathless Self. Theater is the indestructible means that remains eternally as the ritual that ignites the inner Light, an irresistible invitation to ego death and rebirth as Pure Spirit.


Our Drama Department thus encourages you to attend the next Initiation!


Namaste,

Shunyamurti


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