Consciousness, Literature and the Arts
Volume 4 Number 2, July 2003
Staging Consciousness: Updating Demastes
current high level of interest in consciousness, across a number of disciplines
such as philosophy, cognitive science,
psychology, neuroscience, computer science and physics, is said to have begun in
the early 1990s. The Center for Consciousness Studies at
the University of Arizona in Tucson has spearheaded this development with its
bi-annual conferences (Towards a Science of Consciousness) since 1994
(http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/). The peer-reviewed Journal of
Consciousness Studies was also founded in 1994, and by 2002 it has increased
its publication to eight issues per year of 96 pages each (See website at URL
http://www.imprint.co.uk/Welcome.html). The Association for the Scientific
Study of Consciousness (See website at URL http://assc.caltech.edu/) was
founded in 1996, and from it emerged the journal Consciousness and Cognition (See
website at URL http://www.apnet.com/www/journal/cc.htm). The British
Psychological Association has had two sections directly dealing with
consciousness since 1997: Consciousness and Experiential Psychology (See
website at URL http://www.warwick.ac.uk/cep/), and Transpersonal Psychology (http://www.mdani.demon.co.uk/bps/index.htm).
Over the same number of years, interest in the relationship of consciousness to
literature and theatre has equally grown. Malekin and Yarrow’s individual
contributions to the field culminated in their joint Consciousness,
Literature and Theatre: Theory and Beyond. My own research into theatre and
consciousness was published first in 1996, based on my Ph.D. research. Following
several shorter papers, in 1999 I edited an issue of Performing Arts
International on Performance and Consciousness, followed, in April
2000, by the launch of the peer-reviewed, web-based journal Consciousness,
Literature and the Arts, and in December 2001, by the publication of an
issue on Drama and Consciousness for Studies in the Literary
Imagination. See the bibliography for the most important publications by
Haney, Malekin, Meyer-Dinkgräfe and Yarrow.
It is, therefore, exciting to see the publication of
what is probably, after my own book of 1996, the second full scale book devoted
exclusively to the relationship between theatre and consciousness, William W.
Demastes’s Staging Consciousness: Theater and the Materialization of Mind (Ann
Arbor: The University of Michigan, 2002). Reading the book, it came as a
surprise that Demastes does not refer to any of the work relating literature or
theatre to consciousness, by Haney, Malekin, Yarrow or myself. Demastes
responded to my query into the reasons for this omission that he had completed
work on his manuscript in 1998. This explains some of the issue, but not the
lack of reference to, and discussion of, the highly relevant material available
before that time. Having raised this serious point of criticism, I propose to
proceed with an assessment of what the book does provide. Demastes’ argument
is a plea for a new theatre, regarding both new ways of playwrighting, and new
ways of directing existing plays. The plea is cogently placed in the context of
the rest of consciousness studies except for the omissions noted above. Over the
extraordinary four years (!) the book was in press, consciousness studies
developed further. In this paper I provide an update on the debate on
theatre’s relation to consciousness, in the form of a running commentary on
begins by describing what he regards as the science-dominated Western
world-view, which represents an amoral, mechanistic perspective. Within this
world-view, he points out, over the last decades, quantum mechanics, chaos
theory and complexity theory have initiated something like a shift of paradigm
away from the mechanistic to ‘a more organic vision’ (5) that appears to be
supportive of some of the vitalist ideas initially replaced by the mechanistic
view. As a result of the mechanistic worldview, humans have developed
science-based abilities which they have used undeniably to their advantage, but
also to their disadvantage. To tackle science-caused problems, such as an
‘alarming increase in incurable diseases’ (5), we need to enter, or re-enter
‘the realm once allocated to artists, religious figures, and other non- or
anti-empirical dreamers and visionaries’ (5). This is clearly a realm of
mystery, characteristic of a ‘force beyond the domain affected by causality’
Mystery demystified: The Vedic Science Model of Consciousness
agree with the need to move away from the mechanistic, materialist mind-set
responsible for much of today’s theatre, deadly theatre in Brook’s
terminology. From the perspective of such materialism and mechanism, anything
outside the area defined by those two isms must, by definition, be mysterious.
Thus a different perspective is needed to explain what must remain mysterious to
a mechanistic perspective. Applying such a different perspective does not negate
or deny the knowledge gained within the boundaries of mechanism and materialism.
On the contrary, a different perspective may well enhance our understanding of
aspects of knowledge gained within, and valid within, the boundaries of
mechanism and materialism. Moreover, applying different perspectives to the same
object of enquiry helps to expand the boundaries set, as a matter of course, by
any one perspective.
The term mysterious implies that the object, or process, thus
described is incomprehensible. However, what appears as mysterious,
incomprehensible, from within the boundaries of mechanism and materialism
appears as quite comprehensible from a different perspective, and while no
causality appears to operate in the realm of the mysterious when perceived from
the perspective of materialism, it becomes obvious that a different nature of
causality is operating in the no-longer mysterious when approached from a
different perspective. Demastes argues that a different perspective has been
open, traditionally, to artists and religious figures, whom he further
characterises as ‘non-or anti-empirical dreamers and visionaries’ (5). Take
as an example British poet Kathleen Raine, who reports her experience of
seeing a hyacinth:
scarcely to breathe, held in a kind of fine attention in which I could sense the
very flow of life in the cells. I
was not perceiving the flower but living it.
I was aware of the life of the plant as a slow flow or circulation or a
vital current of liquid light of the utmost purity.
I could apprehend as a simple essence formal structure and dynamic
process. This dynamic form was,
as it seemed, of a spiritual not a material order; or of a finer matter, or of
matter itself perceived as spirit. There
was nothing emotional about this experience which was, on the contrary, an
almost mathematical apprehension of a complex and organised whole, apprehended
as whole, this whole was living; and as such inspired by a sense of immaculate
holiness. (. ..) By
"living" I do not mean that which distinguishes animal from plant or
plant from mineral, but rather a quality possessed by all these in their
different degrees (Raine, 1975, 119)
an experience can only sound mysterious to a materialist, who regards it within
the materialist framework. From a different perspective on consciousness and the
experience of consciousness, Raine’s experience makes perfect sense. Haney,
Malekin and Yarrow have introduced and argued on the basis of such different
perspectives of consciousness. Malekin and Yarrow (1997), for example, highlight
the parallels of the Vedanta model to the model proposed by Plotinus. Yarrow has
independently written repeatedly about neutral consciousness (1985, 1987, 2001).
I now want to briefly outline such a different perspective from the context of
my own approach in research. The model of consciousness contained in Indian
psycho-philosophy is very efficient here. It is one of the models discussed in
the current consciousness debate. In recent years, Indian philosopher and sage
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has subjected traditional Indian psycho-philosophy to
thorough re-evaluation, which resulted in what he termed Vedic Science,
with Vedic Psychology as one of its branches. Vedic Psychology proposes a
model of the mind that allows for higher stages of the development of
Psychology proposes "(...) an architecture of increasingly abstract,
functionally integrated faculties or levels of mind" (Alexander 1990: 290).
This hierarchy ranges from gross to subtle, from highly active to
settled, from concrete to abstract, and from diversified to unified. The senses
constitute the grossest, most highly active, most concrete and most diversified
level of the mind, followed by desire, the thinking mind, the discriminating
intellect, feeling and intuition, and the individual ego. Vedic psychology uses
the term "mind" in two ways: "It refers to the overall multilevel
functioning of consciousness as well as to the specific level of thinking
(apprehending and comparing) within that overall structure". Underlying the
subtlest level, that of the individual ego, and transcendental to it, is pure
consciousness, "an abstract, silent, completely unified field of
consciousness". This state is the neutral state proposed by Yarrow. Each
subtler level is able to "observe and monitor the more expressed
levels" (Alexander 1986: 291).
Psychology not only describes distinct levels of the mind, but also proposes
higher stages of the development of consciousness, stages that go beyond the
ordinary states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. The development is
characterised initially by glimpses of a simultaneity of experience of pure
consciousness together with either waking, or dreaming, or sleeping. When pure
consciousness is permanently experienced together with any of the other three,
this state is called cosmic consciousness. Cosmic consciousness is followed by
refined cosmic consciousness, characterised by the refinement of sensory
perception. Finally, in unity consciousness, a person is able to perceive
everything in terms of his own transcendental Self (Alexander 1990: 290). The
model of consciousness proposed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Vedic Psychology
thus differentiates three distinct higher states of consciousness, whereas the
model adopted by Malekin and Yarrow (1997) described only one, which is
equivalent to unity consciousness in Vedic Psychology. In terms of the Vedic
Psychology model of consciousness,
Raine’s experience of the hyacinth can be explained as a temporary experience
of refined cosmic consciousness. While the experience does not lose anything of
its intensity and desirability or any other quality once it has been explained
within a context that is open to empirical and experiential research, it is no
longer mysterious in the sense of incomprehensible.
a revival of the artist has to take place, however, in conditions that are
different from those in the past. The past, on this argument, was characterised
by a ‘top-down hierarchy’, with faith, inspiration or vision, as
characteristics of mystery. Today’s revival of the arts needs to be ‘bottom
up’, ‘material to spiritual’ (6), assuming full acknowledgement of ‘the
reality of the empirical world’ (5).
versus bottom-up: levels of the mind in Vedic Science
argument is fully accurate and appropriate from within the materialistic
perspective. The dichotomy of top-down and bottom-up becomes obsolete, however,
once the introduction of the perspective of Vedic Science has explained what
used to be mysterious. Achieving ‘the spiritual’, in Demastes’ terms, is
the unchallenged and undisputed aim that he argues for. However, the perspective
of Vedic Science permits an explanation of faith, inspiration and vision as
desirable altered states of consciousness, as regards both their characteristics
and why and how they come about. Whereas materialism excludes anything beyond
its framework, rejecting it as mystery, Vedic Science grants each level of
consciousness its own right: ego, feelings, intellect, mind, desire, and senses.
The ego is the
subtlest level of the mind, further defined in Vedic Psychology as the inner
value of the experiencer, the most immediate expression of the field of pure
consciousness. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi explains:
The ego is that value of life which is most refined. The ego ... is the experiencer in the individual life ... Ego understands, ego feels, ego thinks. That faculty of the ego which thinks is called mind. That faculty of the ego which understands, discriminates, and decides is called intellect; That faculty which feels--feeling, emotion-- is called the heart (1972, lesson 19)
et.al. describe the ego from the perspective of Vedic Psychology as interface
between pure consciousness and “the current process of knowing” (1990, 306).
In the function of the ego, pure consciousness has become “localized and
qualified by functioning through the levels of mind and corresponding structures
of the nervous system”. At the level of the ego, all impressions or memories
of an individual are stored: the ego provides the internal ‘reference point’
and ‘organizing power’ necessary to synthesise the information derived from
all the levels of mind through which the ego experiences the world (emotions and
feeling, mind, intellect, desire, and senses). For each ego, the impressions
stored will be different, as will be the organs of perception, thus accounting
for the fact that the ego differs from person to person, making each one unique.
The growth of
the ego in the direction of higher states of consciousness is characterised by
an “enhanced synthesizing capacity. On this basis, information provided
through all other levels of mind could be more objectively appreciated and
integrated” (307). However, the ego still remains an expressed level of
consciousness, and without the simultaneous experience of pure consciousness,
the ego will remain “localized and constrained” by the limits imposed by the
information provided by the other levels of mind, which will also be limited if
devoid of the experience of pure consciousness.
Vedic Psychology, feelings “operate at and interconnect all levels of mind”
(304). However, they are especially important as interfaces between mind and
senses, and between ego and intellect. At an early stage of development, called
early representational period, feelings function “primarily as extrinsically
motivated desires” (304), they are dominated by linguistic expression and
sequential formal reasoning. At a more mature stage of development, however,
feelings help connect the intellect back to the ego and pure consciousness. More
self-validating, feeling at this stage become less dependent on intellectual
analysis, and function in a more subtle, rapid, holistic and intuitive mode.
“Mature feelings and intuition provide an internal ground for guiding the
reflective intellect” (305).
The function of
the intellect is to “discriminate, logically evaluate, and decide” (303).
Intellectual activity provides the basis for abstract reasoning and formal
operations as defined by Piaget: thinking goes beyond the “concrete actual”
to the “abstract hypothetical”. Alexander comments:
property derives from the intellect’s emerging capacity to reflect consciously
upon the contents of the mind, rendering thoughts as possibilities rather than
actualities in which the knower is immersed. (303)
limits of the intellect are further reflected in the methods of conventional
science, which, while making enormous progress in gaining objective knowledge of
the laws of nature, has as yet made little progress in gaining equal
understanding and mastery over subjective existence (304)
The level of
the mind is still more active and expressed than that of the intellect.
According to Vedic Science, it is characterised by language-based thinking,
“responsible for apprehending, remembering, comparing, and conceptually
organizing the multiplicity of perceptions to plan speech and action to fulfill
desires” (302). Maharishi Mahesh Yogi comments on the relationship of mind and
intellect filters the information which comes to it through the mind. Useful
things are accepted, useless things are rejected. The mind is like an open
camera: it receives all the impulses from everywhere. The mind takes in
everything that comes in through the senses. We see so many things. The vision
gets drawn to one thing which seems to be more enjoyable, more useful, and then
the intellect evaluates: it decides whether it is good or bad, and then accepts
the good and rejects the bad. On the basis of that, we act for greater
fulfillment and achievement. (Dillbeck, 1988, 264)
located between the mind and the senses: it may be understood “as motivating
the flow of attention and thus, in daily experience, connecting the mind with
the environment through the senses” (Dillbeck, 1988, 264--5). Maharishi Mahesh
Yogi explains the relation of desire to the subtler levels of the mind thus:
results when the senses come into contact with their objects and an impression
is left on the mind. The impulse of this new impression resonates with the
impression of a similar past experience in the mind and associates with that
impression. The coming together of the two gives rise to an impulse at the
deepest level of consciousness, where the impressions of all experiences are
stored. This impulse develops and, rising to the conscious level of the mind,
becomes appreciated as a thought. The thought, gaining the sympathy of the
senses, creates a desire and stimulates the senses to action (1969, 284).
finally, serve as the link between the individual mind and the environment.
argument is clearly a further development of his earlier work relating theatre
to chaos theory, which is, as he puts it, ‘a creative, interactive fusion of
naturalism/determinism and absurdism/randomness, the two dramatic extremes that
have held sway in the twentieth century’ (7). The emerging paradigm in science
reemphasises the existence of patterns. Similarly, theatre has begun to abandon
character (representing the urge to understand individual motivation) in favour
of abstract pattern, a phenomenon discussed in depth by Elinor Fuchs (1996).
Neither science nor theatre dealing with such patterns, however, go beyond
description and tackle the question from where those patterns derive. Are they
merely an expression of the postmodern fascination with anything on a
meta-level, in this case metatheatre, theatricality of life, performativity?
‘Or can this new idea of theatre (…) be a way to engage these emergent
fundamental patterns and get them to get us closer, in some way, to the emergent
essence of life itself’ (8).
Pure consciousness and / as the unified field of quantum physics
According to Vedic Science, the essence of life is its very basis, pure
consciousness, an experience (more than merely a concept) increasingly
researched in contemporary consciousness studies. Forman describes that the
current "received view" groups pure consciousness with all kinds of
mystical experiences, quite true to its tradition. Regarding the Pure
Consciousness Events (PCE), materialist "constructivism" argues that
experience is significantly shaped and formed by the subject's beliefs, concepts
and expectations. This view, in
turn, emerged as a response to the so-called perennial philosophy school.
Perennialists-- notably William James, Evelyn Underhill, Joseph Maréchal,
William Johnston, James Pratt, Mircea Eliade, and W. T. Stace--maintained that
mystical experience represented an immediate, direct contact with a (variously
defined) absolute principle. Only
after that immediate contact with the "something more" according to
this school, is such a direct contact interpreted
according to the tradition's language and beliefs. (1990, 3)
very succinctly summarises the relativist argument of hermeneutic critic Stephen
mystical experience, like all other experience, is contextual. Consequently no
such experiences can be understood outside their appropriate social, linguistic,
epistemological etc. contexts. We know in general, therefore, that there can be
no universal, culture-independent mystical experience. Thus, in particular, the
IME [Introvertive Mystical Experience] cannot be such an experience. In short,
despite appearances to the contrary, there is in fact no single,
culture-independent IME experience at all. (Shear, 1990, 393)
argues against Katz that the IME experience (which is equivalent to the
experience of pure consciousness), is universally described as
devoid of all empirical content. There are no colors, shapes, sounds, or other
sensory content to it. Nor are thoughts or conceptual processes experienced in
it. Indeed, not only is the experience described as devoid of spatio-temporal
content, but by all accounts even spatiality and temporality themselves are not
present in it. (392)
Shear argues, the kinds of “culture-dependent factors” Katz is concerned
with, “neither do nor even can play any ‘shaping’, much less any
‘defining’ role” in the experience of pure consciousness (394). Shear also
points to empirical evidence from research “on people of different races,
religions, cultures and nationalities throughout the world” which strongly
suggests that there is “a single ‘core’ experience which underlies the
descriptions in question and reflects a specific central nervous system state,
independent of all external matters or beliefs and other culture-dependent
factors (397-8). Shear is keen to point out that culturally dependent factors
“do influence the content of our experiences”, as hermeneutic
philosophers such as Katz insist. “But this should not be taken to imply that
our experiences do not in general also have components which are independent of
such cultural factors” (400).
Pure consciousness as proposed by Vedic Science has been linked, mainly
by Hagelin (1987) to relevant insights in quantum physics. According to Vedic
Science, pure consciousness is self-referral, or self-reflexive. This level
of consciousness is "fully awake to itself. (...) there is nothing else
to be aware of but awareness itself. (...) All the forms and phenomena in the
universe arise from the self-referral manifestations of the field of pure
consciousness" (Orme-Johnson, 1988, 168-9). Self-referral is also the
principle at the basis of many of the latest insights in quantum mechanics. At the beginning of the seventies, quantum field theories
had their difficulties in explaining the phenomena they could observe in particle
accelerators. The problem was based
in the assumption that the respective basic fields (electro-magnetic, strong
and weak interactions, gravity) had so many and so complex interactions that it
was difficult to clearly describe the relationships of those interactions. The
discovery of the spontaneous symmetry breaking, which shows deeply hidden
symmetries of nature on fundamental space-time scales, made it possible to unify
electro-magnetic and weak interaction forces to an electroweak field.
This unification is possible by regarding both fields as parts of the
same mathematical symmetry group. Thus
the interactions of the two become self-referral. Theories of "grand
unification" unify--according to the same principle--weak, strong and
electromagnetic forces and particles. A further principle of symmetry,
called supersymmetry, allows the unification of fields with opposed spin.
By incorporating all other forces into gravity, a unified field theory is
now expressed. Today, quantum
field theorists work on the most elegant formulation of this unified field
theory. All these developments,
which took place during the last fifteen years, are based on regarding the
different basic forces more and more as self-referral phenomena of a unified
field (Hagelin, 1987). Vedic
Science identifies this field
within the human being as the field of pure consciousness.
Hagelin has explored "striking parallels between unified field
theories of physics and the field of pure consciousness" as described by
of his arguments for asserting that the unified field is the source of
consciousness as well as of physics involves demonstrating that at the scale of
super-unification, nature displays attributes characteristic of pure
consciousness: self-referral, self- sufficiency, and infinite dynamism. (Orme-Johnson,
proposing pure consciousness to be at the basis of all creation, expressed
consciousness as well as expressed matter, Vedic Science
is also in accord with Bohm's implication that "in some sense a
rudimentary mind-like quality is present even at the level of particle
physics” (Bohm, 1990, 283). Vedic
Science provides a theory of the
processes of manifestation from within the field of pure consciousness to
expressed consciousness and matter (Dillbeck, 1988).
Within the scope of this study, it will suffice to indicate that the
process suggested is very close to Bohm's view that "that which
we experience as mind, in its movement through various levels of
subtlety, will, in a natural way ultimately move the body by reaching the
level of the quantum potential and of the "dance" of the particles”
(Bohm, 1990, 283). A final interesting parallel between Vedic Science
and Bohm's theory is Bohm's statement that even far distant particles can
affect each other on the quantum mechanical level through the quantum potential
(Bohm, 1990, 287).
Hagelin maintains that there
“is a precise correspondence between the descriptions of the detailed
structure of Natural Law, as described by the Lagrangian of the Unified Field,
and the structure of Natural Law as found in Rk Veda Samhita” (Dillbeck and
Dillbeck, 1997, 14). It is possible to derive forty qualities as emerging from
the Unified Field as described in the Lagrangian, which correspond to the forty
qualities involved in structuring Rig Veda, which in turn are commented upon and
expanded in the 40 bodies of text comprising Vedic Literature. All those
qualities and the mechanisms of their functioning are open to direct experience
of the human mind on the level of pure consciousness.
argument is very accurate within its chosen framework. The need for theatre to
overcome the dangers of becoming ‘deadly’, in Brook’s terms, suggests the
need to get away from reductive materialism characteristic of much current
theatre, and re-emphasise ‘mystery’, which need not be intangible or
immaterial. It may (and should) find physical manifestations and explanations.
Taking a look at theatre history of the late 19th and 20th
centuries, Demastes argues that realism moves from the material reality of the
world ‘up’ to consciousness, whereas expressionism ‘moves from the top
down, sojourning through consciousness and affecting the ‘reality’ of the
material world beneath it’ (15). Stronger dramatists, defined as more complex,
are increasingly able to combine and integrate both approaches, in an attempt to
overcome the dualism of mind and body inherited from Descartes. The same attempt
of finding an alternative to Descartes’ dualism is characteristic of current
approaches to consciousness in consciousness studies. Demastes refers to Dennett
and in particular Chalmers, although they are predominantly philosophers and not
scientists. He also refers to theatre academics Stanton B. Garner and Bert O.
States, who have studied theatre from a phenomenological perspective and
‘convincingly argue for increased understanding via concentrating on the
physicality of theatre’ (25), a perspective backed by applying the philosophy
of Merleau-Ponty. In a way that is close to phenomena discussed in complexity
theory, the various physical elements of theatre ‘somehow’ combine to form a
phenomenon of higher complexity. This higher level is what Brook refers to as holy
theatre, it is the theatre that is searching for, and finding, new beliefs,
rather than following the pattern of most of 20th century theatre in
representing a ‘theatre of revolt’ against held beliefs rather than for new
Artaud, the language of nature, and Vedic linguistics
Demastes’ ‘somehow’ is reminiscent of Artaud’s as yet
undiscovered grammar of the language of nature which Artaud seeks to develop for
theatre to revive its magic and to immediately and strongly affect the
spectator. Artaud calls the language beyond speech, which he intuits, the
language of nature. Vedic Grammarian Bhartrihari describes several levels of
language, vaikhari, madhyama, pashyanti,
and para. Vaikhari "is
the most external and differentiated level", on which speech is uttered by
the speaker and heard by the hearer (Coward, 1980, 128).
Its temporal sequence is fully developed.
Madhyama represents, in broad
terms, the thinking level of the mind.
is the idea or series of words as conceived by the mind after hearing or before
speaking out. It may be thought of
as inward speech. All parts of speech that are linguistically relevant to the
sentence are present here in a latent form. (129)
finest relative level is that of pashyanti.
At this level "there is no distinction between the word and the meaning and
there is no temporal sequence" (131).
Beyond the very subtly manifest level of pashyanti, Bhartrihari locates the fully unmanifest level of
language, para (131).
Bhartrihari associates the pashyanti
level of language with the concept of sphota.
It represents meaning as a whole, existing in the mind of the speaker as
a unity. "When he utters it, he produces a sequence of different sounds
so that it appears to have differentiation" (73).
The process of differentiation into sounds proceeds from the sphota
on the pashyanti level of language via
madhyama or inward thought to
expressed speech on the vaikhari
level. For the listener, the
process is reversed. Although he first hears a series of sounds, he ultimately
perceives the utterance as a unity--"the same sphota
with which the speaker began" (73). The sphota or meaning-whole thus has two sides to it: the word-sound (dhvani)
and the word-meaning (artha) (12).
Sound and meaning are two aspects residing within the unitary sphota,
which, according to Bhartrihari, is eternal and inherent in consciousness (12).
Meaning is thus not conveyed "from the speaker to the hearer,
rather, the spoken words serve only as a stimulus to reveal or uncover the
meaning which was already present in the mind of the hearer". (12)
Haney points out that the unity of name and form, of sound and meaning on
the level of the sphota in pashyanti
applies mainly to the Sanskrit language. In
other languages, tradition of usage has led to associating specific sounds with
given objects or concepts. Haney argues, however, that
Sanskrit is considered by orthodox Indians to be the oldest documented language
and probably the source of all languages, the same unity of name and form found
in it must exist to some extent in other languages when experienced on
sufficiently refined levels of consciousness. (1991, 316)
levels of language, corresponding to subtler levels of consciousness, are open
to individual experience, the identity of name and form should be within
experiential reach. For example, in Ayurveda,
the Vedic system of medicine, ideal treatment is administered when the Vaidya
(doctor) tells the patient the name of the herb which is to be used for
treatment. Simply experiencing the name of the herb on the subtlest level is
expected to have the effect of taking the physical herb, because of the identity
of name and form on the subtler levels of language and consciousness. Similarly,
if “red” could be experienced on the level of the sphota
in pashyanti, all aspects of its form (the redness of red) will be
available to experience, which in turn could ultimately be processed through the
more expressed levels of language. A major task here for Western
psycho-linguistics to accommodate the Vedic paradigm of language within existing
then, represents the subtlest manifest level of nature, and must thus be assumed
to be closest to nature itself. The
grammar of this language, Artaud argues, has not yet been discovered.
However, in the context of Indian linguistics, experience of sufficiently
refined states of consciousness, i.e. direct experience of the pashyanti
level of language, should be able to reveal that grammar.
Artaud assigns an "ancient magic effectiveness to the language
beyond speech". In parallel, Abhinavagupta,
the main classic commentator on Bharata's Natyashastra,
states that it is the poetic experience of dhvani,
the sound aspect of speech, that brings about the experience of rasa
a transcendental function of suggestion removes the primordial veil of ignorance
from our minds and thereby allows the bliss associated with the discovery of
true meaning to be experienced. (Coward, 1980, 76)
may well have sensed levels of language beyond speech actively expressed in
Balinese and other Oriental forms of dance, though he associated the levels of
the mind gained by the spectator through watching such performances with the
intellect rather than with the emotions, let alone the even subtler level of pashyanti:
"Thus we are led along intellectual
paths [my emphasis] towards reconquering the signs of existence" (Artaud,
1974, 45). Artaud here shows
influence by contemporary science which places the intellect above the emotions
and has no place for a level of the mind beyond speech. The lack in Western
psychology of a model of the mind which takes levels of language beyond speech,
as the pashyanti-level described by
Bhartrihari, into account, leads to the vagueness and confusion of terminology
in Artaud's argumentation. Vedic Science clearly associates para
with the level of pure consciousness.
Theatre in search of new beliefs
that searches for, and finds new beliefs is reminiscent of the claim in the Natyashastra,
the ancient Indian treatise on theatre, that theatre was created by Brahma, the
creator, to enable humans to regain their lost state of liberation,
enlightenment, moksha. This is the state of at least cosmic consciousness
according to the Vedic Science model of consciousness.
discusses further points of contact between consciousness studies and theatre.
Descartes, the founder of dualism, suggests that a homunculus (little human) is
located in the brain, and, guided by the mind, causes the brain to function in
accordance with what the ‘I’, that is the mind, wants to be done. This has
been called the Cartesian theatre. Current thinking in consciousness studies
tends to discredit this analogy, just as current developments in theatre attempt
to do away with the homunculus of the director, or with the passive spectator
who, homunculus-like, ‘merely observes materialized events placed before it’
for the need of a model of consciousness that is materialist so as to avoid
being mysterious, Demastes is at pains to emphasise that although materialist,
the required model must not be reductionist. He thus discards Crick’s
‘astonishing hypothesis’ that all conscious experience is ‘no more than
behavior of nerve cells and their associated molecules’ (30, Crick 3).
Instead, Demastes favours Dennett’s approach, which is in line with
Armstrong’s ideas about the function of theatre in the context of human
theatre a reflection of the struggle, in consciousness studies, with Cartesian
dualism of matter and consciousness, with realism/naturalism equated with
materiality and impressionism/ expressionism with consciousness, the
demarcations of what are realism/naturalism, and impressionism/expressionism,
should be distinct. However, Demastes finds that they are not. He concludes that
‘Either consciousness or materiality is not really a choice.
Inevitably, theatre uses a both/and proposition of confronting consciousness
integrally through materialism rather than discretely through mystical or
spiritual channels’. (41). Demastes uses parts of the prologue to
Shakespeare’s Henry V to support his argument: whereas at first the
muse is invoked, apparently suggesting a top-down approach, Shakespeare
immediately turns to a material approach, asking the spectators to engage their
‘imaginations with the material, splicing the imagined into the physical’
(41). Because whatever we see on stage is material, theatre necessarily
‘forces us to think materially about everything before us, even the
apparently immaterial’ (42).
Thinking versus experience
argues that whatever we see on stage is material, theatre necessarily ‘forces us to think materially
about everything before us, even the apparently immaterial’ (42). This is
correct if we consider thinking. The immaterial cannot be thought
about immaterially, because thinking is a function of the intellect, and the
intellect, on the model of mind in Vedic literature, cannot grasp any more
refined levels than itself, and thus cannot grasp the level of the immaterial,
which is the level of pure consciousness. However, while the immaterial cannot
be thought other than materially, the immaterial, pure consciousness is
nevertheless open to direct experience. Such experience can be enjoyable
(by nature, blissful) for its own sake; it is ideally simultaneous with a
sensory impression also created in the theatre.
endeavour has conventionally focused on ‘serious’ analysis of meaning in
theatre, revealed in both text and production. Such plays are didactic, ‘we
are asked to think about the world differently’ (44) as a result of
having seen a production of such a didactic play.
Some plays defy such analysis, for example Wilde’s The Importance of
Being Earnest, as does ‘alternative, nondidactic theatre, where the
boundaries to performance art begin to disappear. Watching a performance that
does not expect us to think about the world differently does still have an
effect, though, Demastes argues. Rather, by undermining not what, but how we
think, such performances have the potential of changing patterns of thought that
are established in our minds on the basis of neurones. Theatre is thus argued to
have, potentially, a direct influence on the neuronal functioning in the brain,
at a paradigmatic level, which may then influence thought processes on higher
levels of consciousness—here defined as levels of serialized processing.
Demastes provides an example for this with reference to Ibsen’s A Doll’s
House: an antifeminist spectator watches a performance of the play. Although
he is not convinced by the play’s message (on the level of serial processing),
some rewiring of the more paradigmatic level of consciousness might have
occurred, which may ‘someday result in a transformation of this
antifeminist’s serial thought’ (45).
changes through theatre
Some years ago, researchers discovered the phenomenon
of mirror neurones. Vilanyanur S Ramachandran, 2003 BBC Reith lecturer, called
them possibly as groundbreaking in today’s neuroscience as the discovery of
DNA in its time (2003). When we see movements of another person, neurones in our
brains start firing in such a way that we should immediately copy the observed
movements. Sometimes we do mirror observed behaviour, as in yawning or laughter.
Usually, however, at the same time, different neurones start firing as well, and
their activity prevents the mirroring action (Votluk 2001). The following
hypothesis results from this discovery: if the spectator in theatre sees the
actor’s movements, part of the reception or response process involves the
firing the two sets of neurones: mirror neurones and those neurones that prevent
an imitation of the observed movement. Although the spectator will not imitate
most of the actor’s observed movements, some impact of the neuronal activity
related to mirror neurones could well have an impact on some part of the
spectator’s physiology, the immune system, for example. This hypothesis
obviously also applies to the actors themselves, and the production team, anyone
who is present during rehearsals and performances.
Demastes, theatre is a ‘grounding mechanism’. In realism, he argues, mind
and environment are interlocked, with environment foregrounded. Expressionism is
characterised by the same components, mind and environment; however, in contrast
to realism, mind is foregrounded (51). The dividing lines need not be strict: in
later Ibsen, for example, such as When We Dead Awaken, realism and
non-realism merge. Such merging leads to theatre that is no longer driven by
plot and character, but becomes a ‘theater of direct experience’ (52). In
that sense, Demastes regards theatre as ‘that place where ‘mind-stuff’ and
‘physical stuff’ intermingle in a manner precisely parallel to our growing
sense of material consciousness. In the theatre matters are just more focused
than in the diffusion of daily existence’ (53).
Philosophers of consciousness, Daniel Dennett and Owen Flanagan, argue that the human mind succeeds in absorbing a multitude of potentially contradictory, and certainly isolated impressions (through the senses), and constructing a fiction of unity from those numerous impressions. This fiction of unity is at the basis of what we think we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, and it is equally at the basis of our selfhood. Demastes discusses the nature of the Characters in Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author in this context. Turning to Beckett, he notes that Winnie in Happy Days is literally grounded, and is revealed through her responses to the world. Similarly, ‘we see that mind can only reveal itself as consciousness of something (59).
that conventional Western science, grounded in Aristotle, has, until recently
adhered to an either / or approach, Demastes argues that some current
representatives of science, as well as some cutting edge theatre artists (Robert
Wilson and Sam Shepard, among others) attempt to disrupt this tendency towards
clear distinctions in favour of multivalence characteristic of Confucian
philosophy and ‘fuzzy logic’. ‘The more we accept multiple values’,
instead of a binary either/or, ‘the more accurately we begin to depict
reality’ (69). Such an approach leads from binary (either/or) to parallel
processing referred to earlier. The danger inherent in multivalence is
information overload, which is likely to result in creative paralysis. What is
required is thus a balance between binary and parallel processing procedures.
has to take time into consideration.
On a practical level, the question arises as to how long a performance should
last? How many hours can a given audience be expected to pay attention to the
theatre event? In the West today, attention spans are bemoaned to become shorter
and shorter; only subsidised companies, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company,
or the Royal National Theatre London may exceed this limit, as may occasional
experimental productions by acknowledged stars of the theatre, such as Peter
Brook’s nine-hour Mahabharata, or
Peter Stein’s 21-hour production of Goethe’s Faust. In some plays, authors attempt to achieve simultaneity of
multiple events. In Noises Off,
Michael Frayn juxtaposes events on stage with simultaneous events backstage,
presenting us first with the on-stage scene (the play within the play), then the
backstage events while the scene we had seen before on-stage takes place
off-stage. The same span of time (the presentation of a scene from the play
within the play on the fictional stage on the real stage) is shown twice, from
different perspectives. In one of Alan Ayckbourn’s more recent plays at the
Royal National Theatre, London, House
and Garden (2000), the
same fictional time span is presented simultaneously in two of the three theatre
spaces in the RNT (Olivier and Lyttleton) by the same cast, presenting indoors
and outdoors perspectives.
in Indian philosophy is eternal, of dimensions beyond immediate intellectual
comprehension, but open to direct conscious experience: the state of pure
consciousness, conceptualised in Vedanta, and increasingly discussed in current
consciousness studies, implies a coexistence of past, presence and future. If a
form of theatre forces the human mind to engage in the experience of
simultaneity, it trains it in functioning from that deep level. Repeated
exposure to such theatre stimuli may serve in parallel to repeated exposure to
pure consciousness in meditative techniques. Theatre, understood and practised
in this way, may thus well serve as a means of developing higher states of
Against this background,
Demastes analyses the concept of (artistic) creativity. He concludes that chaos
theory is not a likely model to explain creativity, since it suggests that
‘nothing is new except in the way it is arranged’ (72), and since even chaos
theory is ultimately a computational model, and, following Penrose, no
computational model can ever duplicate human thought. Following his materialist
approach, Demastes rejects a top-down input by the muses in the creative
process, re-emphasising his credo that there is no need for mystery. He
describes Penrose’s quantum theory based model, which suggests that
non-computational, microcosmic processes at the quantum level integrate with the
macrocosmic events, ‘marking those events with their own noncomputational
processes’ (73). The result of such marking could be the noncomputational,
creative spark. An alternative model, which Demastes terms
‘organic’, is based on Bohm and Peat and refers to the soliton,
‘self-organised, self-generated entities that force their ways through
otherwise random material bodies’ (76). Satellites have been able to follow
soliton single waves ‘rippling for thousands of miles in the ocean’ (76).
Bohm also favours the hologram as an illustration to explain the connections
between mind and universe: taking a part of the hologram reveals the whole
picture, albeit in a less sharp focus and with less possible viewpoints.
Demastes proceeds to Dawkins’ concept of memes, units of information, which
struggle for survival in our minds: strong ideas remain and are multiplied by
communication, weak ones die out. The faith meme contains the meme for a
disembodied soul. The soul is another object that material scientists are
searching for, and which they can rescue from mystery: Demastes suggests that
soul is ‘a sort of meta-awareness, an accumulation that floods into an
awareness of the discrepancy between our mind’s linearized awareness of the
explicate world around us and our brain’s data that houses an implicate
reality of underlying forms and patterns’ (80). Taking this one step further
still, Demastes asks whether in discovering ‘patterns of reality’ science
could, almost inadvertently, have discovered God. Thus there is a major paradigm
shift, initiated by science, suggesting that soul and God exist, but that we
have been looking for them in all the wrong places.
It would be useful to consider further the possibility that the various
different models of artistic creativity that Demastes rejects or explains and
develops further, actually refer to one and the same process, from their
In this broad and major
paradigm shift, theatre has its major function. It can contribute in furthering
the shift ‘by capturing these new visions and triggering an explosion in the
cultural imagination. What could be the goal of this new theatre is to reflect a
sense not only of what science is telling us but also of what we need to relearn
in order to live in this increasingly complex world. The new theatre could
assist in demonstrating how memically to be infected by this necessary, new
paradigm shift. And it can do so in ways that satisfy and even transcend the
discursive celebration of science. Theatre could help to promote the shift by
giving us a place to experience the possibilities’ (83).
The remainder of the book
represents an analysis of elements of this new theatre. Demastes is looking both
for a new art form, and, equally important and valid, a reemphasis, in terms of
criticism and direction, on ‘the stage’s language of rhythms of
consciousness’. Physicist David Bohm posits the existence of an implicate
order which is ‘neither mind nor body but rather a yet higher-dimensional
actuality which is their [mind’s and body’s] common ground and which is of a
nature beyond both’ (87-88). Bohm proposes the development of a new language
to capture ‘the essence of this new level of reality’ (88). In that proposed
new language, emphasis is on movement, on flow, on the verb, rather than on the
The paradigm shift from textual to
Performativity’ is the title of an impressive and far-ranging research project
under way at the Free University of Berlin, Germany. Its major point of
departure is the insight that ‘[c]ultural
studies - the humanities as well as the social sciences - are currently
undergoing a shift of paradigm: from text based models of culture to models
based on the notion of performance’ (See website http://www.sfb-performativ.de/seiten/frame_gesa.html).
The time of the paradigm shift is located in the late 1980s.
of an artefact
A set of discursive formations
A set of dynamic practices
Structuralist, static view of culture
negotiations or transformations
Looking at products of cultural construction
Looking at the processes of cultural
Represent cultural events or social
Constitute cultural events or social
Culture defined by objects,
monuments or works of art
Culture defined by
the dynamic relations and processes that determine, produce and validate
importance of the artist
between the artist and her/his audience
active participant in cultural production
review of positions on identity formation, representation, the body,
self-fashioning, notions of space and time, or cultural norms and values
analysis based on verifiability, repeatability and constancy
modification of aims and methods of cultural critique
The shift towards the performative, as defined above, is ‘new’ and
relatively recent in the context of cultural studies.
Demastes shows that while much
of Aristotle’s philosophy is clearly binary, as far as theatre is concerned,
in the Poetics he ‘fundamentally acknowledges that nonlinear data
processing is central to the stage, and he concedes that a multivalent
perception of reality results’ (89). Flow is the ultimate aim of Stanislavski
as well as of Method Acting. Those experiences of the actor, just as equivalent
experiences of the audience (as Brook sees it, once they are attuned with each
other and with the impulses coming from the stage) are more than the sum of the
parts. Western culture’s preference for taking phenomena apart in order to
understand them, without putting them together again, has led, so far, to
ultimate failure in comprehending experience (‘explaining a play never
does justice to the experience of a play’ (90). Demastes acknowledges
that much can be learned from Eastern traditions, but prefers to look closely at
the Western tradition itself to see whether we are not overlooking relevant
Demastes explains that Artaud’s endeavour of converting the ineffable into the concrete has been interpreted, conventionally, as a process of alchemy, ‘of rarefying and mystifying mundane reality’ (95), characteristic of a top-down approach. Taking recourse to the new materialism, Demastes argues in favour of a bottom-up reassessment, according to which Artaud’s alchemy becomes ‘a process of materializing a heightened reality’ (95). Linear language is to change into non-linear language, a clear parallel to Bohm. Artaud sensed the implications of the new science, without having access to them—in his days they had not been developed. Thus he sought explanations for his intuitions in immateriality, alchemy and Gnosticism. However, reassessing Artaud against the background of the kind of new materialism suggested by Demastes helps to understand Artaud better, and ultimately might lead to a theatre of the kind Artaud envisioned. In an earlier comment, I have already proposed to enhance our understanding of Artaud with recourse to Indian linguistics.
approach of via negativa is subjected to a similar reassessment. Here,
Demastes concludes that whereas some of the ideas and concepts discussed by
Grotowski suggest placing him on a level with Artaud as mystical, much of what
he has to say actually makes much sense from the new materialist perspective.
Grotowski’s agenda, on that reading, is to allow the actors, and through them
the spectators, to free themselves from the restriction of linear thought,
allowing non-linear patterns to be discovered and experienced. The relationship
of mind and body is important for Grotowski. The assumption that the purified
body can serve as an antenna for signals from God is reassessed to reveal,
applying new materialism, that higher levels (not clearly defined, though), are
the cause of neural phenomena. The ultimate aim, an experience beyond the
mind-brain barrier and, more rarely, the now-then, or spatio-temporal barrier,
is given credibility. Grotowski realises that such experiences are non-linear
and cannot be achieved following linear modes. His theatre employs a range of
approaches intended to break linearity, including the audience’s recognition
of the actor behind the character, ‘of the man behind the part, of the nature
of man which compels him to mask, play roles, and act at the same time that he
most wants to break down the defences, narrow distances, and unmask’ (Wiles
156, D 103).
translumination and the Vedic Science model of consciousness
for a state of consciousness and body where the actor transcends incompleteness
and the mind-body-split, where he achieves totality, full presence, where he
becomes a holy actor. Such translumination
is clearly an experience of not only cosmic consciousness, characterised by a
separation of pure consciousness and activity, but an experience of unity
consciousness as defined by Vedic Science: subject and object are experienced as
a unity, the striking duality of pure consciousness and expressed levels of
consciousness, characteristic of cosmic consciousness, disappears. For the
duration of the experience of cosmic consciousness or unity consciousness, all
action, performative or other, is fully spontaneous, there is no longer a
time-lapse between inner impulse and outer action.
At the same time, all activity in those states of consciousness will be
fully disciplined in the sense that there will be no entropy, no waste of
energy, actions will lead to the intended result following the principle of
Neither Artaud nor Grotowski
managed to achieve their aims of reaching what they called the ineffable, at
least not beyond fleeting glimpses. Demastes explains that they failed because
they were stuck in the dualist world-view characteristic of their time,
ironically the world-view they unknowingly tried to overcome by rejecting linear
processes and striving for non-linear, multivalent ones. They looked for
something, i.e., the ‘beyond’, the ineffable, the invisible, seeking to make
it visible through theatre, ‘where that something was not. The something they
sought was entwined with the physical reality they sought to liberate’ (105).
aims to make the invisible visible
Precisely because physical reality and the invisible something are
entwined, each aspect can influence the other. Theatre that follows the
guidelines set out in the Natyashastra may serve as one means among
others for the actor of using the body in such a way that development of higher
states of consciousness results from such use. Alternatively, it is equally
possible, and should be equally effective, to train the mind, through
meditation, for example, to become able to guide the body in such a way that it
expresses experiences of consciousness. Both Artaud and Grotowski, and later
Barba and Brook, among others, describe experiences in and through theatre that,
in terms of Vedic Science, are experiences of higher states of consciousness.
Based on such experience they try to find ways of recreating those experiences
in a systematic way. Neither Artaud nor Grotowski had the depth of Vedic
knowledge at their disposal. This is why they failed to find systematic methods
of expressing the invisible which they had encountered coincidentally. In
particular, Grotowski’s problems with intercultural theatre practice are
rooted in the way he understands and uses Indian material: Mudras
are first described in the Natyashastra.
The mudras are not isolated means of histrionic representation: in
specific situations in a given play, specific means of histrionic representation
have to be used to create a specific emotional and aesthetic experience in the
spectators. As I have explained
elsewhere (1999d) , the Natyashastra
functions on two levels: it is both a description of what a
"perfect" actor, an actor who has reached a state of enlightenment, or
moksha, liberation, will
automatically, spontaneously do to create a specific emotion, a specific
aesthetic experience in a specific audience.
For an actor who is not yet "perfect", the techniques described
in the Natyashastra are a means to
achieve perfection, enlightenment, moksha,
parallel to reaching this state through yoga or meditation practices.
Thus, though the mudras and other means of histrionic representation are apparently
fixed codes, laid down and described as such in the text of the Natyashastra,
they originate in the very moment they are created by the enlightened actor.
Grotowski's argument that Indian signs are fixed thus loses its ground.
Grotowski was disillusioned with yoga as leading to introverted
concentration harmful to the actor. There
are techniques that are meant for people who have consciously chosen the way of
life of a monk, in a monastery. Renouncing
the world, they hope to gain enlightenment.
However, this is not the only path to the same goal: there are also
methods specifically for the individuals who have to deal with everyday
activities; in this case, the meditative practices do not draw the person's mind
inwards with the result of such individuals becoming incapable of ordinary
day-to-day activities. Rather, the
techniques are geared to produce deep physical relaxation together with refined
states of consciousness during the meditation, allowing the mind to access
levels of consciousness otherwise not open to experience.
Such subtler levels of the mind reverberate with energy, which is taken
out into the activity after meditation. Thus,
meditative practices intended for householders as opposed to monks will support
the householder's activity. Indeed,
activity is an integral part of the development to enlightenment: in
alternating meditative experience of samadhi
with ordinary activity, the nervous system is trained to maintain a state where samadhi can co-exist together with the ordinary state of
consciousness (Orme-Johnson, 1987, 336). Such
co-existence is not an intellectual understanding, but a profound holistic
experience, is the aim of both the monk and the householder.
What differs are the paths adopted by the different types of individuals
to obtain that state of liberation.
Wilson’s ‘theatre’ is a prime example of ‘theatre of consciousness’,
since it works on a level of parallel processing which is prior to serial
processing. ‘Wilson’s theatre is, to remind ourselves of Brook’s charge, a
Holy Theatre created from the physical that supplants the mystical via an idiom
digestible by a postmodern consciousness’ (112). Alternative theatre must
avoid being, or becoming solipsistic. Instead, it must be open, accessible and
available to a wide range of audience. At the same time, ‘through that
apparent solipsism we arrive at a larger conception of humanity’s means of
contacting at least the trace of some cosmic essence. … Awareness of existence
unadulterated is impossible, but awareness of its existence via parallelly
absorbed traces is not. (116). Further discussions of Foreman and Spalding Gray
support this view. In the context of Gray comes a further pointer to Demastes’
understanding of mystery, when he writes about a ‘mystical force beyond
the domain affected by causality’ (123). In his discussion of Tony Kushner’s
Angels in America, another basic assumption about the world-view he
argues against becomes clear when he ascribes to Kushner an ‘assault on the
notion of discrete individuality/ consciousness hovering above inferior nature
awaiting manipulation by that discrete and superior consciousness’ (124).
Demastes’ analysis of Shaffer’s Equus points to the multivalence in
both Alan Strang and Dysart’s characters. This view is in opposition to the
more conventional critical view that Stang and Dysart represent, bivalently, the
Dionysian and the Apollonian. Rather, both represent different forms of an
inability of creatively fusing those two forces which are at work in both of
them. ‘If Dysart could fully engage a multivalent logic, if he could see
nature and his place in it more fully, completely, and roundedly, then perhaps
his consciousness could engage a nature with postmodern sophistication, minus
primitive mystery but with a contemporary material reenchantment replacing that
mystery. The difference between saying this and actually offering a parallel
experience of this parallel potentiality is what separates discursivity from the
theatre experience’ (141). It is
the actors playing the horses/gods with their status as actors never in question
that allow this experience of god as bottom-up, non-mysterious, comprehensible,
the material reenchantment.
assessment of Sam Shepard’s work, Demastes comes back to Shaffer, and his The
Gift of the Gorgon. It’s central character, dramatist Edward Damson,
reveals his ‘fundamental materialist urge to manifest the mysteries of
existence physically’ (150). Theatre’s role, Demastes concludes from this
play, is that of ‘distilling reality by making it material on stage and
offering it to the audiences to see… ‘(151). ‘The theatre re-minds our
consciousness, literally, and in a material way, to that in us that can attune
to the patterns inherent in that reality’ (152).
Ultimately, Demastes concludes that ‘united—or reunited—the
sciences and arts could effect the changes envisioned by cutting-edge artists
and scientists alike’(170).
Processes for spirituality
Malekin and Yarrow provide a detailed account of processes through which
‘spirituality is made available to the receiver’ (1997: 129). They identify
three constitutive elements of theatre: performer, character and audience, and
locate processes involving neutrality (pure consciousness in terms of Vedic
Science), witnessing (a characteristic of cosmic consciousness) and play
(characteristic of refined cosmic consciousness and unity consciousness for each
of the elements, giving references to numerous relevant plays. Neutrality for
the character in theatre, for example, is a liminal state. Malekin and Yarrow
displacements, demands to do the ‘impossible’ or resolve the unresolvable
all present the character with the paradigm of the familiar and known, and of
hesitation before a threshold of new forms of knowledge and being. (1997: 137)
liminality is represented, for example, by Vladimir and Estragon in Beckett’s Waiting
for Godot, two characters who are ‘cut off from any obvious criteria of
personality, geographical situation or function (1997: 137). Exposing the
performers and spectators to those processes serves the function of heightened
spirituality, of development of consciousness in terms of Vedic Science.
following points in Demastes’ argument remain unchanged and unchallenged
within the context he limits himself to:
Theatre has unfathomed and to a large extent unused potential in
enabling, in theatre artists and audiences, a holistic experience which is
non-ordinary, non-day-to-day, what Brook calls holy theatre.
Hitherto, this extra-ordinary experience could be described only in vague
terms, suggesting something mysterious, coming from outside, from above (God).
Such an explanation is characteristic of Cartesian dualism
Today’s postmodern view tends to be more materialistic, reluctant to
accept anything mysterious.
Reductive materialism is unable to explain or account for the
extra-ordinary experiences in relation to theatre hitherto described in terms of
mysticism, and can provide no conceptual or practical tools to enable further
development of such holy theatre.
Non-reductive, emergent materialism, as found in complexity, chaos and
quantum theories, offers a model to explain or account for the extra-ordinary
experiences in relation to theatre hitherto described in terms of mysticism, and
can provide conceptual and practical tools to enable further development of such
the argument for a shift in paradigm initiated through chaos theory and
quantum theory is supported by the argument that pure consciousness is the
unifield field described on quantum physics
we are able to understand the principles at work when elements combine
into a higher complexity: Artaud’s as yet undiscovered grammar of the language
we are able to give a new meaning to theatre’s search for new beliefs;
the important difference between thinking about something, and directly
experiencing it becomes clear;
the recent discovery of mirror neuones further supports Demastes’
argument for neuronal changes through theatre;
further thought about time and simultaneity in theatre further support
Demastes’ call for increased multivalence in theatre;
artistic creativity should prove a rich field for further research;
Demastes’ argument for a new language
of theatre, with its emphasis on the verb rather than the noun, is further
supported by the insight of a major shift in paradigm in cultural studies from
the textual to the performative.
we can understand better what Grotowski
may have had in mind when he wrote about translumination
12. we gain a better understanding of what it means for theatre to make the invisible visible, and why earlier attempts were not always completely successful
The range of processes to achieve spirituality (in Malekin and Yarrow's terms)
or higher states of consciousness (in terms of Vedic Science), is broadened and
The aim, for
Demastes and myself, to argue for a wider application and use of theatre, a
theatre for fundamental change of consciousness, is the same. The perspective
from which we argue is different. Demastes’ book shows the strength of the
bottom-up, non-reductive materialistic and mechanistic approach. He explores
that approach in its application to theatre to its limits. The limits become
apparent when the perspective is broadened; the broadening element, in my
argument, is provided by various aspects and concepts proposed by Vedic Science.
The Vedic Science based argument encompasses the arguments proposed by Demastes,
and expands them, towards an even fuller understanding of the theatre. Note that
I do not claim to have exhausted the potential of the Vedic Science perspective
in the twelve comments I offered on Demastes views. Much remains to be
investigated; most important of all, Vedic Science based theatre needs to meet a
major challenge: the theory which Haney, Malekin, Yarrow and I have begun to
develop (see bibliography) needs to be tested, explored and refined further in
Charles N, Robert W. Cranson, Robert W. Boyer, David W. Orme-Johnson.
"Transcendental Consciousness: A Fourth State of consciousness beyond
Sleep, Dream, and Waking." Sleep
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Charles N. et. al. "Growth of Higher Stages of Consciousness: Maharishi's
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Antonin. The Theatre and its Double.
(Collected Works Vol. 4, translated by Victor Corti). London: Calder and Boyars
Bohm, David. "A new theory
of the relationship between mind and matter". Philosophical
Psychology 3:2 (1990): 271-286.
David. “First-Person Methods in the Science of Consciousness.” Consciousness
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Harold G. The Sphota Theory of Language.
A Philosophical Analysis. Delhi, Varanasi, Patna: Motilal Banarsidass,
Michael C. "The Self-Interacting Dynamics of Consciousness as the Source of
the Creative Process in Nature and in Human Life". Modern Science and Vedic Science 2:3 (1988): 245-278.
Susan Levin, and Michael C. Dillbeck, “Introduction: Twenty-Five Years of
Unfolding Knowledge of Pure Consciousness through Maharishi Vedic Science”, Modern
Science and Vedic Science 7:1 (1997), 1-38.
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