4/11/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S. ~
An actor is chosen to portray Abraham Lincoln. Because he is fascinated by the personality of Lincoln, he willingly throws himself into this opportunity. Not only does he study his lines, he reads up on the man; anything he can learn of his character, personal feelings, outlook, mannerisms, speech, and thoughts. Later the actor gets so involved that, in order to be most convincing, he must become the person. He tries to understand how that man thought, to imagine what he felt, to see things through his eyes. The actor tries to put himself in place of the character in order to understand him so much that the portrayer and the portrayed become one. Lincoln is speaking and acting through him.
And so some actors describe this experience; living the part to the extent that, even when they leave the stage or set, they go home as the character. And the character may even be fictional, where even more imagination is required to make him “real” than an actual person. Some authors have mentioned that their own created characters take on a life of their own, “telling” them what they do, say, think.
Actors can be so convincing in their roles that they are identiﬁed by them. The public perceives them as the character they portray so convincingly, likable or otherwise. Some actors/roles are so fused that members of the public who identify with them are emotionally involved in mirroring their own psyches, feelings. (For example, after the announcement of the suicide of Marilyn Monroe, some women who identiﬁed with her also committed suicide.) Celebrity magazines bring a steady stream of news about every single decision and trivial item they can find regarding these actors who achieved stardom through convincingly portraying even fictional characters; often convincingly enough to guarantee them a cult following even after they die.
You can do the practice yourself. Pick a famous person, preferably someone you admire, someone you can get enthused about. Imagine yourself in that person's position. Read everything you can about that person, and go deeper into the words, emotions, outlooks, hopes and dreams of that person, real or ﬁctional. Imagine yourself as that individual. Imagine making him or her part of your life. Imagine how wonderful it is to know someone better than the majority of the populace - personally, even. It’s a great feeling. Many people practicing this do come to know that person, even hear the person's voice talking to them personally. Consider that your relationship is unique because there is only one like you in this one-on-one relationship. You will feel the presence if you make the effort, the total commitment. You have cared with intensity, invested to the point that your former life seems meaningless by comparison. Your life will never be the same again. And you wonder why you didn't commit before.
This “practice” is actually used by Christian churches in order to impel their adherents, through intense study and prayer, to a personal relationship with God. (In the monasteries, it is called “contemplation.”) This is how, with the support of church community and it's “explanations,” one comes to accept “spiritual knowledge “ attainable no other way. It is the “Imitation of Christ,” (by Thomas à Kempis, circa 1420) with its methodology of identifying with the mind and emotions of God, in total surrender to his will. As a member of His family, the more you practice, the more will you be loved. This is the way to conviction in faith.
There are millions of believers practicing and praying. They are telling each other that they have access to the spiritual beyond reality, that God speaks to and through them, and will guide, protect, and love them and everyone else who believes and who keeps practicing. They know this because they ”know” ﬁrsthand what it is to have a personal relationship with the deity.
There’s something disturbing to me about this. The same practice which enables the portrayer to become the fictional, deceased or actual portrayed, almost to the point where he dwells in the portrayed’s mind, is at work. The believer creates or willingly accepts a personality he identiﬁes with as one with himself, and therefore becomes intensely, intellectually, emotionally involved with that invisible personality to the extent that real people become secondary.
Consider that through such practice, one can attain an identiﬁcation, a personal relationship, with the Mormon God, the Virgin Mary, Osiris, Ra, Apollo, Venus, etc. The practice will bring one to “understand” and “have a “personal relationship” with any gods or goddesses and their minds, their ways. You can easily understand that believers in those gods, who likewise practiced, also “knew in their hearts” that their god, with “evidence,” intervened in their lives. (Because, after all, why else were they worshiped throughout history?) The Christian god is only one of them. And every one of those gods is as invisible, unknowable, and indecipherable as the Christian god.
In actuality, the practice(s) used in Christianity frequently require self-sacriﬁce, self-denial, sensual deprivation, and the necessity of suffering as virtuous conditions. All of these things have been practiced for thousands of years; s.o.p. for believers, for the benefit of the gods and their spokesmen. The practice, etc., was common in Communist China under Mao Tse-tung, to create converts to the Party.
The ”practice” is understandable. It is a system of continually lying to oneself and rationalizing because one doesn't trust one's own self, which becomes, with practice, belief in lies and rationalizations as actually true and more “real” than everyday reality. Practitioners practice to believe in the fantasies in their own and other believers’ heads as the true reality. This is a method which takes advantage of human nature. There is nothing ”spiritual-world “ about it. While some may call it psychological manipulation, I see it as imaginative self-deception for the gullible and vulnerable. For these reasons alone, I see the practice as a humanly infused mental illness.