by Charles Webb
“You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.”
– Charlie Parker
Informally since 1992 and formally since 2005, or so, I have been practicing, first with myself, and then with individuals and workshop groups, a reality handling method I have named Cinemorphics (or Alchemical Conjuration Tech – A.C.T. – see below).
I had dabbled with the idea of using method acting and other cinematic and theatrical techniques as a way to “re-create” someone in “real” life and deal with individual problems, psychological, physical and spiritual, for years…
Since the early 70s when I took part in an ongoing actors/directors workshop and really began to see the power of cinematic/theatrical manipulation. By the early 90s this approach had gone through quite a gestation period and it was time to use it….on myself.
At this point, although I was still more or less functional and financially successful, I was grossly overweight and addicted to alcohol, cocaine and cigarettes. Then a close friend, business associate and big time drinking and coking buddy of mine dropped dead of a heart attack.
This woke me up. I decided to re-write and re-direct myself. I checked into hospital to de-tox and walked out a different character. I got a new wardrobe, dropped out of film for awhile and got involved in a restaurant-nightclub project, ate differently and “acted” differently.
I knew I had to do this or die. I was able to write the booze and coke out of my character description…25 years ago…and do the same with cigarettes, which was much harder, a few years later.
The term Cinemorphics refers to the process and art of changing, transforming, transmuting the construct known as the ego, persona, self, etc….(what someone thinks of when asked to describe himself or herself…one’s idea of oneself)…from one form into another, by making use of the methods and techniques of acting and movie/theater production.
Bodily changes may also be addressed or result from this change in the construct, and emotional as well as physical health may be improved.
Such changes may be sought for a number of reasons…to fix some problem either physical or psychological…spiritual…for serious personal growth or, possibly most importantly, as a form of PLAY.
“You” are a body-mind, not a body with a mind or vice versa. Things that influence either, influence both…powerfully.
“You” are a verb, not a noun. “You” are fluid, constantly changing…at every level. The static “you” is a persistent illusion.
“Be careful what you’re dreaming…
soon your dream’ll be dreaming you.”
– Willie Nelson
“You”… “Your self”, persona, ego…”who you are”…however named, is a construct that is formed by the interaction of genetics, imprinting, conditioning and learning. “You” have little input into this process until after “you” have been thoroughly shaped by parents, peers and culture.
Now consider that this “you” that “you” now seem to be is, actually, very much like a fictitious character that may appear in a novel, play or movie and may be re-written, re-produced and re-performed, using the techniques of those media…
“Between pictures, there is no Lon Chaney.”
– Lon Chaney
When someone asks, who are you?, your response may include your name, age, sex, race, height, weight, hair and eye color, where you live, whether you are married or not, whether you have children, what you do for a living, your hobbies, your likes and dislikes, your religious beliefs, your hopes, fears, hang-ups, skills, etc.
If pushed, you could produce an exhaustive “character” description of all of the things that, when combined, make up what you take to be you. You identify with this description, this construct.
This description of who you take yourself to be…your persona…includes genetic, biological and physical components as well as culturally conditioned, learned and psychologically “shaped” elements.
Most of these components have been assembled over a long period of time without your intervention. (e.g. you were born with black hair and learned to speak Spanish growing up.)
Some you believe you have intentionally cultivated (e.g. you decided to learn to play the guitar and make your living as a musician). In many cases the distinction between which of your attributes were come by intentionally and which were thrust upon you by nature or nurture is very blurry.
In any case, this description of whom you think you really are, this construct with which you identify, can be looked at in another way. If written out, your description of yourself reads like a character description in a movie script, play or novel.
Consider yourself a fictitious character that has been devised by the haphazard, natural forces of ordinary life in the world but which you have believed is the real and only you.
“The universe is not made of atoms, it is made of
characters and their stories.”
– Muriel Rukeyser
Now that you realize that this “you” that you can observe and describe is very much like a character in a movie, consider the possibilities.
If your life is like a movie or play and you are the main character, lets have a look at how your character was written…to a great extent not by you…and how you are being directed…also in many cases not by you.
If you don’t like what you see, demand a re-write. Your character…your self…is not written in stone.
It is malleable and can be re-written, then rehearsed and performed by you…at first with the collaboration of and direction by a professional and then by you alone. You can also learn to be your own best, most discerning, audience, write your own reviews…decide what is working and what is not.
You become the producer, the star performer, the critic. You learn how to take charge.
From now on, you are THE PLAYER.
“If you think you are and everybody else thinks you are,
then you are.”
– Jean Genet
For a wide variety of techniques and articles about writing a character description of your haphazardly constructed self as you “are now”, then “un-doing” and “re-doing” your self…i.e deciding on then re-writing a new character description of your self, re-directing, re-costuming, re-art directing, re-promoting, etc…generally re-producing your self please check out Cinemorphics.
Alchemical Conjuration Tech
I have been asked on numerous occasions if Cinemorphics is a magical system.
One of the early names I considered using for the approach and techniques for looking at and handling reality that became Cinemorphics was Alchemical Conjuration Tech (or Training, Technique, Theory, Tao, etc.).
I guess I was looking at what I was putting together as a magical system all along.
As these ideas developed what evolved was more of a post modern “therapy” model (sometimes compared to NLP) or a role playing reality manipulation “game” like Second Life…only occurring in “ordinary” reality rather than cyberspace (like Alternate Reality Games).
But the magical system take on Cinemorphics …from the POV of (Post) Chaos Magick especially… seems as appropriate as these.
A New Direction
Cinemorphics (A.C.T.) was originally conceived and practiced as a method of reality handling that could address certain problems…e.g. substance abuse, shyness, aging, etc. and only secondarily as a technique for pure self expression.
Recently, the emphasis has shifted. A new set of routines, exercises and games, while similar to many practiced in groups and individual sessions addressing problem solving in the past, put the accent on a different beat. These new routines emphasize the amplification and elaboration of the players’ creativity.
One of the modified routines states partially…
“…look at yourself as a constantly evolving work of performance art. This is an advanced exercise that can involve much hard work and development…or not…if the player, once told that he/she is a fiction, “gets it”.
“One should either be a work of art,
or wear a work of art”
– Oscar Wilde
You learn how to effortlessly self-shift…you learn intentional, radical self-shifting.
You are now able to frame yourself as an actor not “just” a specific “person”…an actor who is playing with the self…engaged in an endlessly entertaining Infinite Game of life instead of just wading through the daily drudgery.
You may construct several variations of your self that you can shift among, identifying and dis-identifying with one after the other depending on which one you want to “wear” in any given situation. You now have a “wardrobe” of personas to choose from, all the while realizing that none of them are really YOU.
You are now the creator of these characters, these selves/personas/egos, not their slaves. You are the master not the servant, the host not the guest….(have you gone through the side gate into the garden of non-dual realization? Are you close to discovering The Secret of the Golden Flower?
“The ego is just the dream of the Witness, the film that the Witness creates…, simply so it will have something to watch at the movies.”
– Ken Wilber
Cartomancy is a very effective tool for generating character concepts for a closet full of personas. Instead of simply “dreaming up” character after character to “play” on any given day or night, pull three Tarot cards and read your possible next incarnation…
Question: Cards, whom should I “wear” tonight?
The Man of Action is turned upside down and becomes a reclusive Monk/Seeker.
Another approach to this using three decks, e.g. Carolyn Myss’ Archetype Cards, Steven Farmer’s Power Animal Cards and Tamar Stone’s Selves in a Box cards, can result in a wide variety of suggestive outcomes. Randomly pull one card from each deck, for example…
The middle card, once again interestingly enough, indicates a transition, but this time the “characters” on either side reinforce each other rather than pointing to what changes into what. The synchronicity game is, once again, afoot…
Other flavors of either Tarot or non-tarot decks may be used, of course, to reveal an endless and ever-changing cast of characters. What about one card each from the Witch’s Tarot, the Angel’s Tarot and the Steampunk Tarot…or…maybe…
“Play is the only way the highest
intelligence of humankind
– Joseph Chilton Pearce
About The Author:
Charles Webb is a San Francisco based filmmaker, practitioner of various of the occult arts and founder of the reality handling method Cinemorphics, (Alchemical Conjuration Technique – A.C.T.). His latest book, “Quick-Knife Hoodoo”, is available at Amazon.
Image Attributions: All images are photomontages composed by the author.
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