Clown Cults versus the Cult of the Dalai Lama’s Oracle
Introduction and Context
In Clown Secret I have explained that I think that people are coming to Clown and clown workshops often because they are what I call “seekers”. They are seeking culture. I have created a template of exercises which address Clown as a Culture.
When we think about Cult and Culture we need to ask the old adage: Which comes first the chicken or the egg? When it comes to Clown, and to Culture, ‘we’ have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”. Culture in the recent past implied common: language, region, foods, fermented foods, knowledge of the local flora fauna, and a living relation with the Seasons. Culture in that local/regional context also implied shared songs, dances, stories, and connected generations of families; as well as cultural spiritual practices which in numerous contexts were either formal religions or were Indigenous cultural practices. In all likelihood, logically speaking, those practices did not suddenly appear. Further they evolved over generations. For example in Aotearoa (New Zealand) the long staff weapon “taiaha” is trained as a ‘kata’ or martial arts choreography. As was explained to me by a taiaha practitioner – that before he could create his own fight choreography, he had to first learn the choreographies of his 22 generations of predecessors/Elders. I mention this simply as an example that even Indigenous cultures and practices evolve. The SIDE NOTE immediately below is to address issues of communicating about Indigenous matters in an Australian context.
SIDE NOTE #1 – INDIGENOUS MATTERS: To attempt to acknowledge that the general Indigenous viewpoints are different from the context of my communication, none the less, on advice and my interpretation I will note very briefly in the next 7 paragraphs some of the issues with acknowledging Australia’s complex reality between the Indigenous and Non-Indigenous world views, ideas, and communication ways. To be explicit, I will number the seven paragraphs for the ease of the reader.
- Around the world even many Indigenous Cultures are rapidly loosing the ways of their Elders, of their Culture. All Cultures also had Cultic practices which we call ‘religion’. The Indigenous view differs in that they view their practices as ‘spiritual’ and stemming from their Lands and not as a ‘religion’ per se. Notably in Australia there are approximately 350 or more Indigenous cultures and each is stemming from their particular Land.
2. There’s a gap in communication about these matters between the Indigenous viewpoints/beliefs/truth versus the Non-Indigenous viewpoints/beliefs/truth with the difference being that Indigenous Culture is related to Land in specific ways and practices; whereas Non-Indigenous Cultures appear to have ‘religion’ which appears to not be connected with Land in specific ways.
3. However, at least in the Jewish history and saga on going there is a viewpoint which appears to be a combination between both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous viewpoints of Land and Legends i.e viewpoints/beliefs/truth.
4. As an example of the longevity of Jewish connection to the Land of Israel – there is ever increasing archeological evidence that the Jewish People/Nation resided there at least by 1000 B.C.E. The vibrant ongoing archeological site of The Altar of Shiloh is likely about 1400 B.C.E. The Jewish People are unique or at least unusual in terms of their being Indigenous (by the U.N. definition) in that they ‘arose’ as a People; and, that is noted both in their/our Torah and history. The Torah is not a history book. None the less there is more and more and more archeological evidence in abundance illustrating that much of the history/stories in the Torah certainly have more fact than fiction. As Bob Dylan wrote “the times they are a changin’ “. Except when it comes to reading about the ever increasing archeological evidence of Jewish People’s nationhood in the Land of Israel – certainly the worlds of ‘news’ and politics most of the world is living in the dark ages of a lack of disclosure.
5. As an example to shift from a singular view about what constitutes ‘Indigenous’ longevity to certain Lands, the Maoris who are considered the Indigenous People of Aotearoa (New Zealand) arrived by boats approximately 1200 A.D. i.e. about 800 years ago. Some now claim the arrival as early as 800 A.D. There is however denial that there was in fact another Indigenous group that was longstanding or more longstanding than the Maoris. By comparison, the Jewish People were established in the Land of Israel including Samaria and Judea predating the time of King David of whom there is enormous evidence of which more is being revealed not only annually but monthly if not daily on location .
6. In another different case of Indigenous is the on going living saga of the Romany/Gypsy People. In theory they originated in what is now called India yet their Indigenous nature is a more fluid definition, history, and culture.
7. Another different case of Indigenous is the likelihood that the Native Americans or some of the tribes at least originate from China albeit many thousands of years ago.
Now after that super brief noting of the enormous complexity in discussing Indigenous definitions I’ll shift back to ‘religion’ as this blog/essay is discussing variations on the theme of cults. There used to be a saying that the problem with people not believing in God (whatever that is!) is that they will believe in anything.
I have seen for nearly 50 years that when it comes to Clown – people who come to learn about Clown will and do believe anything. There is a common tendency for ‘teachers’ of clown to spout out any type of romantic myth. The participants come with a sense of openness, trust and a healthy naivety. Thus the combination of factors just mentioned: the changes in Cultures through – to – the few specifics in Clown create the perfect storm for the establishment of a cult. I saw the signs and noticed them consciously first in 1976.
The Cultural Context in Which Clown is But One Field
In recent years, part of my interest in Clown as a field is, to use it as a supposed benign occupation to serve as a metaphor for what is likely going on globally in many fields and aspects of society.
Social Theorist Pierre Bourdieu established an approach to understand that virtually all fields of human enterprise operate under the exact same social rules of engagement. Those rules lead to the established players adhering to a dogma that continually ensures their control and dominance in their particular field or fields of enterprise.
That said, I do not have a cynical view of Clown nor of the World as we know it. On the other hand I feel simply like the child in the fable that says “The Emperor has no clothes on”. Meanwhile the Emperor struts on parade and the other viewers exclaim how beautiful the new robes are. Yet there are no robes worn.
I really like a very wide range of clowns of all sorts and that includes the genre I have labelled as “Non-Clown Clowns”. Those who in various fields such as music, dance, singing, visual art, boxing, etc. who far excel as creative ‘clowns’ beyond most trained clowns and beyond most working clowns.
It is a paradox. But, unfortunately we appear to be living in an increasingly paradoxical period of Humanity. We are continually encouraged to act in awe and comment on the fashion of the day as such even though the Emperor has no clothes.
SIDE NOTE #2 – INDIGENOUS MATTERS
Here I will enclose two sections from a 51-pages 2017 interview conducted with me by Mike Finch of Circus Oz. The sections briefly are only two parts of my views as an individual Australian attempting to find a doorway into a glimpse of Indigenous cultures of which are said to be over 350 in variety.
From 2017 “Interview with Ira Seidenstein (IS) by Mike Finch (MF), on behalf of Circus Network Australia” – From page 41: The following quotes are verbatim from myself.
(IS) “Basically we are all in this together: Indigenous, First & Second Fleeters (which included Jews, Africans, Americans, some from Norway, Sweden, Portugal and others), then 10-pound Poms, Afghan camel drivers, Chinese miners, NT Pearl divers, Dunera Boys, refugees, and us New Australian’s by choice, and pioneers and pastoralists. Reconciliation is not only understanding whatever the Indigenous communities require from us for their own deep healing on their own terms, what in Jewish culture is called ‘tikkun’ or repairing a broken vessel, but, we each have to find a way to connect further to the land, place, and I also believe the modern cultural history. The bush was as foreign to me as any pioneer. I have not mastered the bush, not even close, but, gradually with the help and guidance of many Aussie Aussies and Ethnic Aussies (wogs) I attune more.”
Page 44 – “Kandinsky, who was part of the Bauhaus movement, transitioned from painting of myths/stories to painting the elements of shape, colour, rhythm all of which overlapped. His book is “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”. What we refer to as ‘dot paintings’ reveal a related insight into the elements of art and life according to Indigenous Australians. For my Doctorate, in its early stages, I was mentored by Dr. Franca Tamisari who was an Anthropologist from Venice, Italy. Dr. Franca was initiated into an Indigenous community in far North Queensland. She spoke their language and danced their dances. One of her colleagues at U.Q., Dr. John Bradley, was initiated into another Indigenous community, the Yanyuwa people. He made one of the most amazing cultural studies. He had permission to tell some of the non-sacred myths/stories/songs which he showed were complete scientific knowledge about that particular region and the seasonal nature there. In his book “Forget about Flinders” (2003) each song had a series of illustrations (by Nona Cameron) showing exact locations of the natural elements of their culture, and how the song told the knowledge. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-08/forget-about-flinders-atlas-preserves-yanyuwa-culture/7572832.
“Three of the Yanyuwa people’s Elders came to UQ at that time (2003) and taught us a new cultural song/dance – The Mermaid Song/Dance. One of the women was Jemima Miller it was her aunt who dreamt the song/dance, an old woman by the name of Elma a-Bunubunu. From the dream it was understood that they were to create the Mermaid song/dance and to teach it. Cultures evolve. They do not occur “ex nihilo”, out of nothing.
“In the clown and performance world one of the greatest relics is Waiting For Godot – filled with Beckett’s knowledge of art, music, space, light, time, and Biblical myths. It is about the existential nature of being human in a dreamscape of space, light, time and myth. On one hand I have the highest regard for scholars in the arts and thoroughly enjoy their writings. On the other hand the whole academic system has been infiltrated with jargon, political motivation as the driving force, and the financial requirement to over publish, and having to choose sides in an argument. In Beckett’s case his longtime friend and publisher finally got disgusted with the bias of the academic ‘experts’ about Beckett. They made sure to ignore things about Beckett which did not suit their politically correct bias. John Calder’s great books were The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett (2001) and, The Theology of Samuel Beckett (2002). Images of Beckett (2003) is another insightful book by a longtime colleague of Beckett’s.”
That was from 2017 “Interview with Ira Seidenstein (IS) by Mike Finch (MF), on behalf of Circus Network Australia”. The whole 51-pages interview may be online via google? Or you can simply email me for a copy via firstname.lastname@example.org or via fb.
National Context – Australia
The following is from a Thesis regarding Leadership in one of Australia’s Indigenous communities. There are approximately 350 Indigenous Australian clans or cultures. There is a blatant paradox rife within the ‘Left leaning’ people many of whom absolutely detest religion yet they are always on the latest trendy bandwagon about the Indigenous Australians. It is totally taboo for me or anyone to simply mention that the Culture of the Indigenous Australians appears to us as ‘religious’ or even a spiritual culture. Most of us in Australia have very little real understanding of the spiritual aspects of the Indigenous Cultures.
Here is a very brief quote of evidence, a hint of the richness of their religious and spiritual Culture.
This quote is from the Doctoral Thesis of Bill Ivory – 2009 – Charles Darwin University
KUNMANGGUR, LEGEND AND LEADERSHIP: A STUDY OF INDIGENOUS LEADERSHIP AND
SUCCESSION FOCUSING ON THE NORTHWEST REGION OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY OF
Page 95 – “Religion, Ceremony and Ritual…
“Aboriginal people from the Port Keats region believe that „generations of Murinbata are
reincarnations of beings who were created in the old dream-time‟ (Falkenberg and Falkenberg
1981:185). Every generation experienced anew the creative past as active participants in the
sacred ceremonies. Past, present and future, they said, are „fused into a timeless whole‟
(Falkenberg and Falkenberg 1981: 185). Kunmanggur (sometimes also referred to as
Kanamgek or Dimgek), the Rainbow-Snake Man, is believed to be „the giver of life‟ as well as
the source of authority and tradition as observed by Stanner (1936: 194). Kunmanggur was
later displaced, Stanner (1966: 56) argues, as the paramount cult by that of Mutjinga, The Old
Woman or Kale Neki, the „mother of us all‟ and the associated bullroarer.
Socialisation procedures and initiations in the form of ceremonies, the most important being
known publicly as Punj, were occurring during Stanner‟s visitations to Port Keats (Stanner
1966: 3).55 As Stanner (1966: 4) pointed out, the facts of the ceremony are „dense with
meanings‟. Whilst it was, and still is, an initiation ceremony, Punj was also a higher-level
indoctrination into the world enabling the young to „understand‟ (Stanner 1966: 3). Such
ceremony occurred once a year, and could take from one to two months to complete,
depending on several factors (56) including „the will of the ritual leader (kirman)‟ (Stanner 1966:
5).(57) There were secret and public sequences and roles assigned to a range of people (Stanner
The author, Bill Ivory, PhD, by the time he completed his Thesis had lived in the community of Wadeye (formerly named Port Keats) on and off for 30 years. He still lives there. Wadeye is a large territory and home to 22 Indigenous clans. The region is on the immediate coast southwest of Darwin. The entire thesis is online in the public domain.
SIDE NOTE: Related to my on going research towards my book “Remnants – Encounters With My Jewish Culture”; these few extracts from Bill Ivory above are directly the obvious similar guiding principles established in the Jewish Culture’s Torah and Talmud:
a) Bill Ivory: “Every generation experienced anew the creative past as active participants in the sacred ceremonies. Past, present and future, they said, are „fused into a timeless whole‟.
In normative daily Jewish practice i.e. said or chanted every day: ‘generation to generation’ (in Hebrew: “d’or v’d’or”); and, (Bill Ivory) “Past, present and future, they said, are „fused into a timeless whole”. The Hebrew tetragrammaton (4-letter name for ‘god’) which in a single word contains the 3 words for past, present, future as well as the ‘timeless whole’ referred to in English as ‘God’.
b) Bill Ivory: “the Rainbow-Snake Man, is believed to be „the giver of life‟ as well as the source of authority and tradition”.
In normative daily Jewish practice this reminds of the event of the Torah being given at Sinai as the origin of our authority and tradition. (The location is now known likely to exist as Mount Bedr in the Midian area in Saudi Arabia – according to scientist Sir Colin J. Humphreys – Fellow of The Royal Society and Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering )
c) Bill Ivory: “the paramount cult… The Old Woman or Kale Neki, the „mother of us all‟.
In normative daily Jewish practice this reminds of an essential teaching regarding the importance of The Shabbat and what is considered the Feminine aspect of the whole of Creation. “Shechinah שכינה (also spelled Shekhinah) is derived from the word shochen שכן, “to dwell within.”… Sometimes we translate Shechinah as “The Divine Presence.” – from Rabbi Tzvi Freeman (his whole essay is available via chabad dot org)
d) Bill Ivory: “Socialisation procedures and initiations in the form of ceremonies… the facts of the ceremony are „dense with meanings‟. Whilst it was, and still is, an initiation ceremony, Punj was also a higher-level indoctrination into the world enabling the young to „understand‟ “.
In normative daily Jewish practice this reminds of the primary initiation rite of Bar Mitzvah that done properly requires years of study before the age of 13 for a male and the modern practice of 12 for a female.
e) Bill Ivory: “There were secret and public sequences and roles assigned to a range of people”.
In normative daily Jewish practice this reminds of the three weekly days and the holidays when the Torah is taken from the Ark within the Synagogue. In the traditional sense that requires a minimum of 10 adult Jewish males that is referred to as a “minyan”. A minyan is required for a variety of normative rites including the practice around the opening of the Torah and it’s cantorial reading. In the normative sense as Bill Ivory words it: “roles assigned to a range of people”. In normative daily Jewish practice this reminds of the nine roles required for the regular ritual of the cantorial reading of the Torah.
My first objective is to show that cults are a completely normal part of human existence. It is via various practical cults that a society functions. Cults are the foundation of a Culture and Society.
Secondly I hope to show, briefly, that Clown is just as much a Cult as any ritualized practice in a benign sense. On the other hand Clown and especially I am referring to the ‘teaching’ is just as much a business con as any corporatized Cult or cult-like corporation be it private or governmental or internationally recognized organization many of which are deeply corrupt and operate using cult-like behaviors.
Thirdly I will show some video footage of an actual Cult in practice, that of the Dalai Lama’s Oracle. The first short video shows the Dalai Lama explaining the function of his Oracle. The second video is a short documentary of the Dalai Lama’s own Graduation Examination to be a qualified Geshe. The third video is very long but begins with a very short explanation from a highly advanced Buddhist Monk/Geshe.
Lastly I will explain what my method offers to the world of Clown, Theatre, Acting, Performance and to the teaching of those areas – regardless of what Clown Cult or performance Cult one adheres to and to which I would claim that many practitioners “believe in” virtually as their cult or religion so to speak.
Notably, my book written in 1996 and published in 2020 – Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare; has an essay Theatre As Religion; and, 3 essays about and against “multi-culturalism” and “multi-cultural theatre” the field in which much of my work had taken place.
I lived several years in Northern California and San Francisco that was at the time, the ‘cult capital’ of the USA.
Cults have many different forms.
I propose that there are of course dangerous cults but there are also virtually benevolent cults. More importantly as I will explain briefly there are personal, individual cults that every person creates around their own preferences of daily behavior. Then there are other types of cults including inside parts of the world of Clown; just as there are cults within the benevolent world of Buddhism.
To sum that up, cults are normal in all human societies. Some of those cults are dangerous and some are simply business ploys and some are valuable social institutions.
Cult is the foundation of culture. In whatever way that you deem yourself to be a cultured person, there lay your private cult. You are a cultist.
Section 1 – Cults are a normal part of Culture and Society
Joking aside, for a moment, there are cults in the official sense which are dangerous. Joking aside California; and, San Francisco’s Bay Area that includes Berkeley and Oakland; was really the USA’s and probably the world’s cult capital during the time I lived there.
One influential center that I studied in many people would term as a cult. However, my experience there for over a year showed that it was anything but a cult. In fact it was a center that revealed how cults operated and taught how to evade cults of all sorts. However, shortly after I studied there and a few years after the founder passed away the same center eventually did become a cult albeit a ‘christian’ cult.
There is a cult that can be termed the ‘anti-cult cult’ that takes a fundamentalist definition of what a cult is or isn’t .
Hmm that’s funny. That is what so many clown teachers do to set up and reinforce their cult i.e. they establish and adhere in a fundamentalist way to: ‘what a clown is and what a clown isn’t.
Section 2 – Clown teachers/schools appropriated the actual lineage of Clown via the teachers/schools cult-like dogma.
Photo below: a few of the duality – Matriarchal and Patriarchal Lineage of Clown
It is the same psychology as “pyramid schemes” in which one person buys the sales package and sells the sales package to as many people as possible and ideally each person they sell to further sells more sales packages to others. Some pyramid schemes actually sell excellent products!! It is only their business promise that is either a cult or is cult-like.
The operative ploy is simply a non-provable approach known as doing good business. That ploy is either a guarantee that this package of items, stuff, or techniques really work. Or a fake narrative that pretends ‘we don’t promise anything’.
Whereas in reality although: the words ‘guarantee’ and ‘promise’ are not uttered by the teachers of Clown; those words are said in numerous ways by the teacher’s recruiters i.e. their clown cult members (‘graduates’);
In Clown, in the teaching of and the acquiring of know-how, nothing works except whatever works.
A teacher including people who have never really been a clown can work well to guide and encourage other people to ‘discover’ what clown means to that individual.
Most of the excellent clowns of my generation either did not have a clown teacher or we understood that even if we had a teacher of clown it was still totally – 100% – up to ourselves to ‘get our act together and take it on the road’.
I can assure you that the majority of the multitude of people who have been in clown workshops or long trainings do not realise they have to be able to make an act. The only real way to learn how to do that is – to do just that i.e. make a clown act and find or create situations OTHER THAN IN A CLASSROOM to perform your short clown act or short clown acts. Most people have a tremendous difficulty in making a 2-minutes clown act. That is a clown act which they could for example repeat every day for 3 weeks – as an experiment.
Whereas, if they could simply discipline themselves to make such an act and to carry out such and experiment – AND – could then make several other short repeatable clown acts THEN there is the possibility they could ‘become a clown’.
A person could take any other field that they have already achieved knowledge in and could apply that same discipline even if it is an intellectual discipline such as maths or literature or economics and they could use their mind to refocus towards Clowning.
Of course in a business sense what does work in the field of clown teaching is the salesmanship, the con. That is simply the nature of salesmanship. ‘Proving’ the worth of a clown ‘teacher’, method, or school by showing how popular they are is fake news. Psychologically it is the same as saying the worth of a restaurant is its popularity. If that were true then McDonald’s is the worthiest i.e. most nutritious restaurant. As it is not likely nutritious food, so the most popular clown teachers, methods, schools are not actually ‘nutritious’. In fact the most popular are simply businesses that operate like Cults with a capital ‘C’.
Whereas what actually works i.e. what the great clowns actually did is more scientific so to speak and I have devised a method that “frames” that science. None the less no matter where one trains or doesn’t what Clown requires is more perspiration than inspiration. The ‘secret’ that every clown of my generation somehow knew, was, to begin making very short skilled clown routines of just a few minutes each. Then to start performing them anywhere including on the streets and plazas.
Some famous Clowns have outright said that one “cannot teach clown” or “clown cannot be taught”. There are MANY great professional clowns who have said that. Two of which are: Annie Fratellini of the famous French/Italian clown/circus family; and, Slava Polunin of Slava’s Snowshow.
Yet, both Fratellini and Polunin found an alternate route to ‘teach’ clown. Annie taught 3000 circus students at her school. She and her staff taught them real circus skills starting of course with acrobatics and ballet as the foundation.
Along the way periodically some few students of circus were natural clowns or were naturally drawn to the genre of clown. Over several years the students arduously practiced hard and acquired real circus skills which they could then clown with.
In Polunin’s case he primarily hired fully trained professional actors who each had done a 4 year university and conservatory style classical Actor and Theatre training. He and his early colleagues gradually accrued several solid clown acts which years later any trained actor could learn by rote.
Upon that system Slava and his colleagues created one of the greatest modern clown theatre shows i.e. Slava’s Snowshow. That show and company became, deservedly, a highly lucrative business that supported and supports a selection of performers and their families. Importantly that show, like Cirque du Soleil has brought a great joy to millions of audience members in numerous countries.
So far, I have mentioned or hinted at a few key reasons that I see sections of Clown as a Cult in particular this is caused by clown teachers, clown schools including performance or theatre schools which only teach one semester with clown as a focus.
1st – When the teacher/method/school defines what a clown is or isn’t and adheres to that blatantly or subtly such a definition establishes a cult-like mentality. That has been proven via dogma embedded in the field via the main French schools (often referred to as ‘physical theatre’ schools) and their international derivatives.
2nd – The definition of Clown and the ‘feedback’ given in the studio continually reinforces the learners adherence to the proscribed dogma.
3rd – The French schools; of ‘physical theatre’ (inclusive of a semester of clown) and their international derivatives and teacher/preachers of their dogma have appropriated the lineage of Clown and have supplanted it as if the lineage begins with their dogma. Whereas, I propose that the lineage of Clown is public, historical, and rooted in ancient indigenous intuition and practices which evolved to a modern duality of a Matriarchal and Patriarchal Lineage.
Section 3 – The Cult of the Dalai Lama’s Oracle
I first read about the Dalai Lama’s Oracle in the 14th Dalai Lama’s 2nd autobiography Freedom in Exile.
In Freedom In Exile the Dalai Lama explained that periodically the Monk or Geshe who is the current Oracle is consulted as an advisor. The Dalai Lama has numerous advisors and teachers and associates globally. There is extensive preparation for a Monk/Nun/Geshe to become an Oracle. 7 intensive years. Then each time the Oracle(s) is to be consulted there is preparation. Finally the consultation is given over and when it is done the Oracle’s body passes out and is stiff like a corpse and the fully costumed Oracle is carried out – stiff as a board or a stiff but shaking board. .
In the origin of Western Theatre which began in Ancient Greece there were plays which spoke about an Oracle. There was a cult and oracle at The Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece. The famous amphitheater was further up the hill.
By seeing the videos of the Dalai Lama’s Oracle(s) its Cult and Ritual we get a glimpse metaphorically to the Oracle of Delphi and its Cult and Ritual.
First link, below, the Dalai Lama explains how he works with the Oracle. You’ll need to click on the link and it will open.
Section 5 – Expansion of the ideas around cults
In the classic definition a cult is by design mistakenly identified with the misnomer as ‘a religion which has a deity’.
In fact most people belong to a variety of cults which may or may not be a religion and which may or may not have a deity i.e. a godlike figure.
In reality for example science is often cult-like and the university system defines who or what is science’s god-like ‘deity’. For example some may deify Richard Dawkins; or Stephen Hawking; or Michio Kaku or David Attenborough or numerous others depending on the field of science. Each of those is an exceptional scientist around whom each has a cult-like following that borders on or is an actual Cult. In each case the words of their leader becomes ‘the gospel’.
Of course established political parties are cults with their history of evolving deities replete with the latest incarnation being whoever is currently in the highest office. These cults are even replete with a complete codified dogma. As I have written elsewhere one of the first and most important jobs of any politician is to prove and continually maintain proof that they are loyal to the party and to its political dogma and to its current party leader.
I am amused that many Buddhists and ‘experts’ on Buddhism believe that there is no deity in their cult. Whereas any non-believer readily sees that it, Buddhism and its various factions is each a religion. Albeit, one that loves to claim it has no deity and therefore claims it is not a religion. Sure looks and acts like one.
The 2nd video, below, is a short documentary about the Dalai Lama’s own Geshe (‘graduation) Examination. Just prior to his escape into Exile to India.
In 1990 The Dalai Lama invited a group of Jewish Rabbis and others to come to his retreat at Dharamsala, India. Specifically as it was apparent that the Tibetan Buddhism once removed from its main temple at Lhasa was facing a crisis of a dwindling culture. So he wanted to learn from the Rabbis how on Earth has the Jewish culture survived and even thrived after its 2nd Temple was desecrated in 70 A.D. That meeting and exchange was recorded as the book The Jew In The Lotus. Published in 1994 it is now in its 37th edition.
So far in my recent few years casual study of Judaism which is both a religion and culture, I have said that it is an ‘anti-religion religion’. The texts of the Talmud are historical arguments with frequent two antagonistic views neither of which is ‘the end word’. In fact the study of the Talmud is a process of arguing vehemently. In a completely similar way Buddhist study to become a monk requires a daily practice of absolute vehement arguing part of which includes yelling. They are yelling about the meaning of sacred texts.
In both cultures i.e. Jewish and Buddhist, there are numerous cult-like practices each of which has its own open, published, form of logical reasoning within its own culture. In many ways each is a cult of memory practice. It is vital to both of those cultures that the monk/nun or rabbi or lay practitioner studies and knows the lineages of their great and diverse sages; and their differing opinions. Learned opinions.
“People are very much into bringing more fun into Judaism,” Omer-Man told Kamenetz in “The Jew in the Lotus.” “But fun is not joy. Joy is ecstatic knowledge with all parts of one’s being, an integrated way of knowing. It’s truly a quest.”
Already by 1977 I would not teach games as part of a clown workshop. It already became obvious that people were treating workshops like therapy. Additionally they were projecting onto the teacher responsibility for the ‘fun’. Many, many, many teachers of clown take full advantage of such control. I suggested that Participants should have fun working hard and playing with whatever the task or exercise is. Further, as I created Core Mechanics, including the phenomenal The Twist Choreography and Creative Twist in 1976 – I was teaching those casually to friends and classmates.
The first official public workshop that I taught on my own was just after I moved to San Francisco in 1977. As Jeff Raz reminded me when we worked together in Corteo (Cirque du Soleil) 2007 in L.A. …. the first or one of the first clown workshops he attended was that one in 1977. He was already an exceptional juggler in the great quartet The Bay City Reds!! During the 1st or 2nd day of the workshop …. someone smelled a little smoke. Soon we all smelled it. Then we saw the smoke coming in from the gymnasium’s doors. We all rushed but the doors were locked. We found a way out. Local youths had locked us in and set the garbage cans on fire. Fires out, we went back to clowning. Jeff, by the way was WONDERFUL to work with in Corteo plus he did everything imaginable to make my entry into the show and complex situation enjoyable.
Recognition of the value and importance of lineages is also part of most or all Indigenous cultures.
One of the ways that the clown cults function is to divert the novice or student learner away from the actual lineage of clowns. That is why I devised the idea of a dual Matriarchal and Patriarchal Lineage of Clown. It is a clown cult busting technique. Clown did not start with any particular current teacher nor did it start with their teacher, nor with their teacher’s teacher. The Lineage of Clown is from a wide and diverse selection of actual Clowns going back historically through centuries.
In Jewish and Buddhist cultures most of their practices certainly do not make sense to an outsider nor to many insiders nonetheless there is a intact form of logic called ritual.
The practical introduction to my method is a series of exercises in chronological order. Yet that introduction is merely a warm-up. Anyone can use it and benefit from it as it is about Creativity via ones body in space and time. When that ‘warm-up’ is finished then the person, or practitioner, teacher, group, can work on anything they want and anyway that they want. There is no dogma or at least certainly no intended dogma. There are ‘universal principles’ within the exercises. Those ‘universal principles’ are ideas or concepts which are common in many fields such as dance, martial arts, meditation, yoga, and others. The Principle of One in a simple way is that everything one does in our theatre work is dependent on one’s personal involvement. The Principle of Two is that there is and must always be opposition even within oneself. That yields another concept that I call “Opposite” – in creativity if one gets stuck, simply do ‘the opposite’ and then come back to the original. Do that several times and each time do a different opposite. The opposite as a concept or principle or tool is virtually a scientific or mathematical or mechanical way to get unstuck in a fun, freeing, and creative way… without any dogma!!!!
The modern theatre world was alerted to the value of ritual by the anthropologist Victor Turner. “Turner noted that in liminality, the transitional state between two phases, individuals were “betwixt and between”: they did not belong to the society that they previously were a part of and they were not yet reincorporated into that society. Liminality is a limbo, an ambiguous period characterized by humility, seclusion, tests, sexual ambiguity, and communitas.” (quote via wikip.). Amongst Turner’s few books that he authored were: The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (1969); From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play (1982); and, Liminality, Kabbalah, and the Media (1985).
Even the most adamant cult buster will be an adherent to their own private rituals including how they arise every morning and how they eat and what they eat and when they eat, as well as how to retire to bed in the evening. There is nothing wrong with that. Cults are a normal part and healthy aspect of all societies and all groups within society. Yet, some cults are dangerous and grossly manipulative. A LOT of clown teaching is cult-like. Anecdotally it seems that the more famous the more cult-like. That includes my own anecdotal experience since the mid-1970s. And that does not mean that my teachers were intentionally cultists. None the less, some of them were in a clown cult.
Cult-like people may also be scientists, or athletes or Hellenic worshipers of ‘fitness’, or ‘yogis’ who are actually fitness buffs. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with any such people!! I am just mentioning those select few because they are often adamantly anti-religious often as they considered religion as cults. Which they are, yet so too are the sciences including; the science of fitness and that includes yoga or tai chi or other martial arts all of which are wonderful fitness sciences – they are all cults.
In their private or even individual cult they will be adamant to select the best or most ideal or most trendy training clothes, yoga centre, gyms, equipment, nutrition etc. Their deity is themselves. That is their appearance which they present to the world, or at least to their gym mates. So they may not have saffron coloured robes but we know from observation that they visually ensure that they fit in to one of the models of the gym cult’s approved ‘looks’.
My objective so far has been to show that cults are a completely normal part of human existence. It is via these various practical cults that a society functions. The first layer we see is simply that which we do see. That which we do see first is in terms of attire but also in terms of overall presentation.
My Own Method
Attempts to present an alignment of Clown and Classical Acting in the first level. The method also presents a clear template of exercises each of which has an ultra simple and transparent structure of only a few steps. Therefore the actor, person, participant can interpret whatever occurs for themselves organically. They begin immediately to be self-reflective and to build their embodiment and their self-confidence while working with and observing others.
It is the simplicity and clarity of the method that is its power to be used and adapted by anyone for their own purposes or vision.
THIS IS A FINAL DRAFT – JULY 13, 2023.
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My main teaching at the moment is the long distance part-time course I.S.A.A.C. Creative Mentorship with its own page on my website. You can use that 12-monts process also to learn The Four Articulations for Performance.
Below is a long video of The Oracle but it has an interesting short introduction.