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Spiritual Development of an Actor

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The Spiritual Development of an Actor By: James Wagner In the introduction to the book Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice, Kristen Linklater asserts that “one can recondition the body and mind so that the voice can express the visceral and spiritual urgency that was the original subject matter of the text in Shakespeare’s day.” Every graduate level actor training program in the country has a core curriculum of movement, breath, and body awareness aimed to train the visceral instrument in its students.
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  The Spiritual Development of an ActorBy: James Wagner In the introduction to the book Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice, Kristen Linklater assertsthat “one can recondition the body and mind so that the voice can express the visceral andspiritual urgency that was the srcinal subject matter of the text in Shakespeare’s day.” Everygraduate level actor training program in the country has a core curriculum of movement, breath,and body awareness aimed to train the visceral instrument in its students. And yet, most of thosesame programs wouldn’t dare propose to explicitly support the spiritual development of their students. I propose a definition of “spiritual development” in general and its specific applicationto the work of an actor. From there, I suggest possible avenues of research to explore how personal development reaches transpersonal development and how all of that relates to the sacredorientation to the vocation of acting.Perhaps one of the most important questions to answer first is: What exactly do we mean by the word ‘spiritual? Ken Wilber outlines four often confused, inexplicit, yet commonmeanings of the word spiritual. (pg 100-101 Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber)His definitions are predicated on understanding a few other basic terms. Wilber oftenrefers to “lines” of development. His work draws on and expands the work of Howard Gardner,Michael Murphy, Daniel Goldman, and many others who have outlined multiple lines of development; multiple intelligences, or a multitude of capacities that are fundamental potentialsin every human being. Examples are as follows; musical, aesthetic, moral, kinesthetic, self-sense, cognitive, mathematic, spatial, interpersonal, emotional, etc. (Integral Spirituality, Pg 60,Ken Wilber) Wilber makes a few important assertions about these lines of development. First,although all people have innately have these lines, they can be relatively unevenly developed. Aman could be highly developed kinesthetically and have the musical intelligence of a child, or anartist could be brilliantly Avant-garde aesthetically and morally bankrupt as was the case withthe Nazi genius film maker Leni Riefenstahl. A psycho-graph can be drawn up as a bar graphthat shows multiple intelligences and the altitude of development that each line has grown to.(pg 59, Integral Spirituality, Ken Wilber) These psycho graphs, tracked over time, give a   powerful tool for facilitating the development of anyone (including actors) into a more spirituallyactualized life.This idea of developmental levels or altitudes brings up a second point. Wilber’s work relies heavily on the distinction of developmental “stages”. Think of mathematics as a classicaldevelopmental sequence. One can’t do differential calculus without first learning basicarithmetic. Each developmental line represents a series of stages like concentric circles. Each prior stage is necessary, containing essential building blocks that must develop before the nextstage of complexity and capacity can emerge. (  see 20 tenets of a holon, Sex, Ecology, andSpirituality, Ken Wilber) For example, one develops the skill to work differential equations(complexity) and whole new technologies (capacities) can be created.If a variety of lines of development or even developmental maps of the same line are placed side by side, (Charts 1-11, Integral Psychology, Ken Wilber) the remarkable part is thatthey all flow in the direction of higher levels of complexity and capacity. In all cases, if thetrajectory is followed far enough; the results are transpersonal or spiritually oriented stages of development. Thus the highest stages of any line Wilber also terms “spiritual”.I will define the spiritual level of development as any level that begins to operate on atranspersonal orientation. In most lines it will be what Wilber calls an altitude of level 8 or higher. “Altitude” is just the way Wilber simplifies the discussion of levels of consciousness;each level nothing other than an agreed upon unit of measuring a degree of consciousness,complexity, and inclusion. Just like temperature measurements between Celsius and Fahrenheit,neither is “right”, they are each ways to measure heat. In Wilber’s work, rather to simplify andavoid conceptual prejudice, he uses colors and numbers. In most instances the transpersonallevels are measured at about what he calls a level 8, or turquoise level of development.I am only concerned with Ken’s first two definitions of spirituality. First, spiritual is thehighest reaches of any developmental line, and second, spiritual intelligence as a developmentalline all its own, existing not only at the upper echelons of that line, but at birth and all stages aswith any other developmental line. (pg 100, Integral Spirituality)  Thus, my inquiry into the spiritual development of an actor is twofold. First I would haveactors take up practices in the spiritual line of development itself (mostly meditation) andconsciously build an awareness of how it affects the acting work. Secondly, I’d identify a fewcore lines of development, and have actors train each to the spiritual levels of development tolevel 8/turquoise or higher. I will clarify what those core lines are, and what practices they mightsuggest, below.As I work to identify what the core lines of development for an actor are, a number of questions and concerns arise. What lines are available to us and how would one pick, fromamong the many available, the few that are of most importance? We can identify some of theoptions we have to choose from based on the work of Howard Gardner. He identifies seven keyintelligences or developmental lines of human capacity. We can also look to Michael Murphyand his seminal tome The Future of the Body. Murphy emphasis twelve major faculties of human potential and traces them through roughly three developmental stages each. Many of thecapacities these two men focus on do not overlap. Wilber, in his work, shows that almost all of Gardner’s lines exist in only one of Ken’s four quadrants or domains of human capacity. Ken’s proposal suggests an array of developmental lines that are almost numberless.Wilber suggests that lines of development are any growth hierarchy sequence that can bemapped in human life. The number of lines that can be isolated, (depending on one’s desire for  precision and detail) are essentially infinite. Wilber solves this problem much in the wayGardner and Murphy do, by focusing on fundamental pillars of human life. In his core chapter,“Integral Life Practice” (Pg 201, Integral Spirituality) Wilber suggests four core modules of conscious development that all human beings should engage for a happier, healthier, saner  planet. The four core practices are for the physical body, the cognitive mind, the psycho-dynamic self, and the spiritual self in the form of meditation. (Figure10.1 pg 203 IntegralSpirituality)In the same chart Wilber suggests auxiliary practices as well, including; ethics, sex(psycho-sexual line), work, emotions (Goldman’s EQ), and relationships (Goldman’s social  intelligence) Out of the infinite number of capacities, Wilber’s has put these four forth as mostimportant based on all his research and work. The auxiliary practices he suggests are the nextfive most important human capacities to cultivate by his estimation of general humandevelopment and transformation. Again, the list is essentially infinite, but Wilber’s list of nineof body, mind, sprit, shadow, ethics, sex, work emotions, and relationships (figure 10.1 pg 203Integral spirituality) have been highlighted as most central to a good human life.Generally, I maintain Wilber’s categories of core and auxiliary practices, but I willcategorize them slightly differently. I will also add one more category which I will callVocational Modules. These are the handful of developmental intelligences I believe arenecessary for people of a particular vocation or craft, and in this case, I am focusing on the craftof the actor.The core practices I chose are the cognitive line, the spiritual line, and the self-sense.(Pg. 60 Integral Spirituality) Basically cognitive development is demonstrated by asking “Whatam I aware of?” (Pg. 60 Integral Spirituality) The more developed the subject’s consciousness,the more complex and inclusive the answers to that question. Training the cognitive line seemsvital precisely because it is the glass ceiling of development. It is the one line of developmentthat seems to have a strong relationship to the ability other lines have to develop. “Research hascontinued to demonstrate that growth in the cognitive line is necessary but not sufficient for thegrowth in the other lines.” (Pg. 65 Integral Spirituality) This seems to be the case because “youhave to be aware of something in order to act on it ( moral  ), feel it ( emotional  ), identity with it(  self sense ), or need it ( needs ).” (Pg. 65 Integral Spirituality) “Cognition delivers the phenomena with which the other lines operate.” (Pg. 65 Integral Spirituality) Practices thatwill develop the cognitive capacity as a core module of work for any human being, and certainlyfor an actor are logical choices.This raises questions of how cognitive development is normally treated in the process of actor training, especially in light of what Wilber suggests helps develop cognitive ability. A fulldiscussion of those topics is beyond the scope of this paper. It does serve now just to say that
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