DUSTY HERMETIC BOOKS AND PRINCIPLES ABOUT ACTING
Apparently, one can find truths about acting everywhere.
My friend and mentor, CT(the most brilliant teacher I know on the damn planet) has diligent eyes; he can trace didactic material about acting into nearly anything. Yes, anything, even books on kayaking. I haven’t perfected my game, it takes freaking time and a friend/mentor, but I am getting there.
We talked a few days ago, and I mentioned something about a book I read years ago called the Kybalion. His curiosity was intrigued, and one day later, he sent me an email with a link from Wikipedia on the Kybalion. In his email, he noted how the 7 principles in the book, — even though hardly fundamental — seem to be pretty valuable for acing scenes, understanding the actor’s language, etc.
HOW THE FUCK DID I MISS THIS!?
I started reading the principles one by one, and as always, he was right!
The Kybalion 7 ancient principles (ABOUT ACTING) Let us see what the Kybalion is
(Taken from wiki)
The Kybalion (full title: The Kybalion: a study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece) is a book originally published in 1908 by the “three initiates” (yeap as mysterious and as cool as t sounds!)
Their purpose was to convey the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus (three times tremendous or thrice greatest). Apparently, he is the Hellenistic figure that originated as a syncretic combination of Hermes and the Egyptian God Thoth. He wrote the Hermetica, a widely diverse series of ancient and medieval texts that lay the basis for various philosophical systems known as Hermetism.
Enough with Wikipedia(it is easy to get lost into the rabbit hole if you follow the blue highlights)and back to the Kybalion.
The book’s central concept is that there are seven hermetic principles upon which the entire Hermetic Philosophy is based. THEY CALL THEM LAWS!?!
Laws of nature? Universe? Life? Who knows, all I know is CT WAS RIGHT; they can be helpful as (laws?) for scenes and plays, relationship and character!
I will dig in with some quick thoughts (I will probably murder the damn thing but hey…fun). I will write quickly… just to see what comes out…
1) The principle of mentalism
“The all is mind; the universe is mental.” Indeed that IS mental.
How does it translate in the world of acting?
a)You have to start adopting the mental processes of your character. Unless you manage to think character thoughts and start problem-solving inside the imaginary circumstances you are not acting! Yeap, you are pretending.
b) Intellectuality is generally scoffed in the world of an actor’s training…SO FREAKING WRONG!
When trained in any technique, actors are invited to hone powers like instinct, impulse, imagination, and intuition. HOWEVER, YOU CAN’T JUST ACT ON THESE! These are weapons!
When you get a play, a scene, or a script, the work in the beginning should be mental…intellectual…You have to become a script detective; this is IMPERATIVE.
For instinct impulse and intuition to work, you have to make specific choices in the text and give them a playground! If you do not do this work, then we are talking about plain impulsivity. Useless!
I am tired of actors making arbitrary choices for the risk itself without acknowledging the script; you make the director’s job so much harder!
2) The principle of correspondence
The Kybalion says
“As above so below; as below so above[..].”
This brings to mind so many things!
.From writer (text) Down
To the director
From the director down
to the actor
From the actor down to
From the character, Up
To the actor
The actor up
to the writer(text)
(yeah, I am leaving the director out)
And so on and so forth.
It also brings in mind the wisdom of Michael Chekhov.
I am oversimplifying, but your mind influences your body and your body your mind, and they are together, not separated. You can use bodily imagination to influence psychology, and psychology will most certainly affect your body.
From the brain (emotions, thoughts, imagination) to the body.
From the body (gestures, posture, movement) to the brain.
In addition, we do not have to restrict ourselves to a vertical movement up down and down up. How about horizontal?
That reminds me of Meisner.
Again an oversimplification but like Meisner said
“Do not do anything unless something makes you do it and that something is on the other fellow.”
Hence, it becomes “as over there, so over here”…
Your acting depends on how you (Cor) respond to what is happening as it is happening at the moment and what is happening to you is your acting partner!
3) the principle of vibration
“Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.”
I say YES! (while dancing)
Emotion? It vibrates in never stays the same, and it changes all the time. For example, emotional preparation -a tool in the Meisner technique- is always used for the “first moment.”
You get in loaded with emotion, but it has an expiration date; the feeling will be sustained until something new happens, then IT WILL CHANGE!
If it stagnates, then you are either in a “mood,” not an emotion, or you are faking it. Feelings change, and they never stand still!
How about Action? It always moves forward, it never rests, or else no story, No drama! Communication? It vibrates between you and your partner, both of you and the audience.
Thoughts? Character’s thoughts are not a loop. They are not a single word; they are a series of free associations and a movement forward as you problem-solve!
Body? Unless you are one of those “neck and up” actors, I don’t even have to talk about this one!
4) THE PRINCIPLE OF POLARITY
“Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.”
That’s a big one, huh!
Let’s break down at least a part of it.
“Everything is Dual”
Well… night…day! Good…evil!
This reminds me of a couple of things. One of them is classic script analysis!
the “trigger and the heap.”
An action is not a single entity, It has two parts. I drop the pencil (part one) pencil lands on the floor (part two)
“An action is something that makes or invites something else to happen.”
An action has a trigger (first half of the action)
An answer to that first part “a heap” (second part of the action)
Then the heap becomes the new trigger, and it invites or creates a new heap that, in turn, becomes a trig…err…you see where I am going with this?
That is how a story moves forward, right? It is like a domino, and the part before moves the piece that follows.
The other thing comes from a very old and successful acting coach.
He advises his actors to never make a choice of a positive “objective” about the character.
For example, suppose the character is stuck in a family situation. with a husband she doesn’t love anymore or a job she hates. A “positive” choice would be to “break free,”” or to find “the meaning of life” according to the coach, this is never interesting!
A more exciting choice would be “to get the fuck out of this freaking jail” see, there is a duality in there, freedom and struggle. It seems negative tends to be more specific, and positive seems to be a generalized version of wishfully thinking.
And to bring back Sandy in the game…always be specific! Next part is
“EVERYTHING HAS ITS PAIR OF OPPOSITES”
There is some hate in every bit of love.
There is a portion of admiration in every bit of hate.
There is a pinch of jealousy in every bit of admiration.
Knowing that can give you so many ways of addressing the feelings of your character. There is a beautiful complexity in this concept, and it is true in life.
“All truths are but half-truths.”
And thus, we have the recipe of drama….conflict!
“My Truth” (I believe what I believe) and “your truth” (you believe what you believe) will clash, and someone has to give.
And NO! Truth is not factual; it is absolutely subjective. In WWII, if you asked the Germans, they would tell you they were fighting for the motherland. If you asked the British, they would tell you they were fighting off evil. Of course, we know that the Germans were misled by an Evil, weird-looking bastard who loved killing people and eating vegetables. Still, the Germans believed they were on the good side of history.
Caution: Conflict is the recipe of drama, not acting. In life, we try to get out of the conflict! Resolve or avoid until we can’t anymore, and a good text will make sure you “can’t avoid or resolve” fairly quickly.
5) the principle of rhythm
“Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.”
I love this picture of a tide going in and out; you might not realize it, but that’s how a story is being told.
A scene begins with the waters withdrawn? The water will come back again at the end of the scene if we want it to move forward.
An emotional pendulum is on the left? It will swing back to the right sooner or later.
From emotion to emotion, from scene to scene, from act to act.
EVERYTHING BREATHES; THERE IS A RHYTHM
6) the principle of cause and effect
The Kybalion says
“Every Cause has its Effect; every Effect has its Cause; everything happens according to law; chance is but a name for a law not recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escapes the law.”
And somehow, I was jolted back to the hated physics class in high school, God I wish I paid more attention, but I do recognize these two laws:
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And
The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force exerted and inversely proportional to the object’s mass.
Can you see how these apply to acting? Again :
YOUR ACTING DEPENDS ON HOW YOU ADJUST (REACT), RESPOND TO WHAT IS HAPPENING AS IT IS HAPPENING IN THE MOMENT!
And it has to be proportional to the force exerted on you. (unless you are Krishnamurti )
Everything that happens to you as a character has a cause; the way you think, behave, and react! There are many planes of causation. And you have to explore them, maybe it is your past, perhaps it is something that happened right now, perhaps it is your worry for the future!
NOTHING ESCAPES THE LAW!
7) the principle of genter.
“Gender is in everything has its masculine and feminine principles; Genter manifests on all planes.”
That is a strange one, and I will not get into character and how that manifests (yes, I find it true in every single character written)
I will just mention a few actors.
Marlon Brando, yes, Brando, this guy managed to bring out the masculine through the feminine. He recognized human nature. He addressed his emotions, his anima (unconscious feminine side of a man)
Sigourney Weaver is a perfect example of an actress addressing the feminine through the masculine; she brought to power through her animus (unconscious masculine side of a woman)
Does this apply to character and actor?
Well, that is the end of the seven principles
For now… until CT makes me Indiana Jone’s another ancient text
Love & respect
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