Rosicrucian Writings Online


THE
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
 
THE VALUE OF DRAMATICS
 
By THE IMPERATOR
[H. Spencer Lewis]

 
[From The Rosicrucian Digest September 1935]
 
 
OUT of the many things for which the month of September is renowned in history, there is one event associated with it that is of interest to mystics and students of ancient philosophy and the customs of civilization. I refer to drama. In the western world today our clear and proper appreciation of the value of drama is colored by our familiar contact with its modifications and perversions in the form of modern plays and cinema productions. We have lost sight of the origin and truly classic importance of drama and the essential part it has played and always will play in the lives of civilized human beings.
 
Both dancing and drama had their origin in the mystery schools of the Orient and in the temples of worship of Egypt and India. Only a few days ago I had an interesting discussion with Frater Lafferty who has come to our Headquarters to take charge of the school of dancing in connection with the College of Fine Arts. We have here in the college the professor of music and voice culture, harmony and orchestration, and the professor of sculpture and painting, form and color, and the professor of rhythmic motion, the poetry of motion and dance, as well as drama and tableau. I called to the attention of our Frater the fact that rhythmic motion in the form of the swaying of the body began as an accompaniment to prayer, meditation, and chanting, in order that the consciousness of the individual might be attuned to the rhythmic motion of the universe, but that a little later the companion art of pantomime was added to that of the rhythmic motion and this was the foundation of dancing as revealed in our Rosicrucian teachings and records. I had not taken the time to investigate what histories and encyclopedias say about the origin of dancing, nor have I done so today, but I learned from Frater Lafferty that what our Rosicrucian records say in this regard is quite different from what he has been taught and what the best schools teach. He had not been taught to appreciate the place of pantomime in the art of dancing but saw at once that it was the only explanation to logically account for the various positions of the body in any interpretative dance or ceremonial dance.
 
But out of the art of pantomime also came eventually the artistic features of drama. Drama would have remained a purely mechanical and lifeless recitation of ideas or historical events always reporting that which had already occurred or might occur, but never portraying the lifelikeness of the ideas, if it had not been that the art of pantomime had developed this special feature of instruction and illumination.
 
In nearly all of the most ancient of Oriental rituals we find the High Priest and the other ritualistic officers in temples, synagogues, cathedrals, or school assemblies attempting to dramatize certain prayers and ideas with pantomime. Even in the adorations to the mythological gods in the various Egyptian, Indian, and Persian religions, the High Priest or Priest emphasized some of his ideas with pantomime by placing himself in certain postures and changing these as certain ideas were being expressed. Interpretative dancing today has simply elaborated upon the rhythmic motion and introduced more definite postures of pantomime, but unless pantomime explains and interprets the ideas of the dance, the mere artistic, graceful, or mechanical movement of the body, hands, arms, and feet will not add interest, grace, nor consistency to the dance no matter how beautiful it may be in its rhythmic motion.
 
The same is true of dramatics. It is a notable fact that the tendencies to dramatize are often developed very strongly in children, for they find it easier to express their ideas and emotions through pantomime and dramatic action than through words. Even before they can speak properly, little children will give dramatic emphasis to their incoherent sounds or words. Later, as young children, the limited vocabulary makes it almost necessary for them to use pantomime or elements of dramatics in attempting to convey an expression of their emotions.
 
The art of drama has come down through the ages as one of the fine arts because in its purest form and in its ideal and ethical application it has become a school of instruction bringing to our senses of sight and hearing and to our consciousness a better understanding of the incidents of the past and of the reactions to human emotions. The cinema art and the modern applications of dramatic principles have modified the pure form of the drama and even perverted it, but drama in its highest form will never be eliminated from the list of necessities of life any more than will music, painting, or sculpture.
 
It is interesting to note that the month of September is important in the dramatic history of North America because on the 5th day of September in the year 1752 the first drama, the first play, ever produced in America was presented at Williamsburgh, Virginia. It was the impressive Merchant of Venice which was selected as the most fitting for this important event. Perhaps few of those associated with the stage or drama are familiar with this important event but nevertheless it will always remain an outstanding date in the historical calendar of this western world.
 
The month of September has many anniversaries in it and brings to mind a number of important events in the development of civilization. The first day of the month is associated with the transition of Louis XIV in the year 1715. The sixth of the month is the anniversary of the transition of William McKinley who was shot only a few hours earlier by an anarchist while the beloved president was genially associating with those who loved him at a great national fair. We learned many lessons here in the western world through that unfortunate incident, the principal one being that the freedom of the press can easily become a form of licentious expression going beyond all bounds of reason and good taste. We refer, of course, to that division of the press that is commonly called "yellow" or radical. We all remember how certain newspapers for many days prior to the assassination of the President carried large cartoons which were later printed life-size and posted upon billboards in many eastern cities demanding that something be done to McKinley because of his reluctance to do many things that radical types of minds demanded, while others were in sympathy with his reluctance. Some of these cartoons and pictures urged or promoted the idea that the President should be assassinated or punished in some cruel way for his peaceful attitude, and we recall that the resulting catastrophe was almost a precise carrying out of the destructive ideas promoted in these radical newspapers.
 
Among the events of the past that have their anniversary in this month and which brings to our mind the peculiar stages of evolutionary thinking and development of civilization is the Leopold and Loeb conviction and imprisonment on the 10th of September, 1934. This case gave to all of us an illustration of what can happen when the human mind becomes perverted and tends to operate in the wrong direction. Here were two young men students at a university and sons of wealthy parents who had been allowed to develop their lives without responsibility, without any appreciation of the value of money, the value of human life, and the spiritual things of life. They developed ideas of perversion and sought for the monstrous and bizarre in life's experience. They finally reached the point where they wanted to see what experience the human consciousness would have as a result of destroying the life of another or of torturing an innocent victim, and they proceeded to work out their strange view-points, their strange desires, regardless of the injustice to another. Their case brought to light the weakness of our moral and ethical educational system in the western world and the danger that surrounds a life of affluence, opulence, laziness, and irresponsibility. These young men had more money to spend than ten ordinary young men and yet they produced nothing but disaster, contributed nothing to civilization but regret and wrecked their own lives and set backward the development of American standards of youthful education.
 
September is also the anniversary of the birth of the Republic of France in the year 1792 on the 21st day of the month. On the 26th of the month Balboa discovered the Pacific in the year 1513 and thereby contributed to the advancement of civilization. In ancient times on what is equivalent to the 20th of September in the year 356 B. C., Alexander the Great was born.
 
Interesting to a large portion of the public of North America is the fact that the year 5696 of the Jewish era begins on the 15th of September. This reminds us of the fact that our calendar is a human made device with many arbitrary features and, therefore, inconsistent in its general application and usefulness, and like all other man-made institutions, subject to many errors, abuses, and misunderstandings. The month itself was named after one of the Roman rulers and the whole calendar of years beginning far back in the centuries before the birth of Christ has been altered from time to time until there is much dispute among the most learned of men in regard to how many years have actually passed since any great event occurred in the centuries before the Christian era. It is claimed on good authority that the year A. D. 1 should be A. D. 4 or possibly A. D. 3. But the Jews have their own calendar and so do the Mohammedans and many other religious cults or denominations, and many organizations or great international movements have a calendar of their own such as the Rosicrucians who began their calculations with the outstanding events in the life of the traditional founder, Amenhotep IV, in 1350 B. C. Allowing for the 1350 years that preceded the Christian era, the 1935 that have passed since then, and the three years discrepancy at the beginning of the Christian era, we have now 3288 years as the traditional cycle of Rosicrucianism.
 
September introduces to us the Zodiacal sign of Libra, beginning about September 22 according to your position on the earth's surface, and it is the beginning of the fall season and the ending of our summer months. Throughout most of the civilized countries, it marks the beginning of new activities, a cycle for study, profound thought and development, investigation, and progress. Let us make the most of the months between now and the holidays to improve in wisdom and character.
   

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