Saturday, March 27, 2010

Architects of the Imaginal: Movie Star Tulpas

Continuing this old discussion from last year at the inner forum:

Mountainsong commented:

I have noticed that my unconscious uses "stars" to represent certain archetypes in my dreams. One notable one for me is Gene Hackman. The first time I ever saw him was in Bite the Bullet where he protected a horse that was being beaten. He made the bully stop beating the horse and gave him a good thrashing in return...if I remember the movie right. Ever since then he occasionally appears in my dreams as a figure of protection. One time I dreamed that I was standing in front of a wall that was oozing blood because it had murdered people hidden behind it (a pretty good metaphor for repressed memories) and he was protecting me from the murderer who wanted to add me to the people behind the wall.
This seems a good example of something I’ve been trying to get at: the way movies create narratives—with characters embodied by stars—to colonize our unconscious. When we see a good movie, or at least one that affects us personally, we may continue to run through the images, dialogue, characters and situations in our mind for hours or even days afterwards. In a way, we continue to narrate—to live—the story, in and through our consciousness. Think of those people we know—or at least have seen in movies!—who are obsessed with a particular movie and who recite lines of dialogue compulsively. We may only be aware of this happening with certain movies, ones we see more than once and that we choose to make our own, movies that we internalize to such an extent that we feel a personal connection to them, to the actors and filmmakers, and perhaps most of all, to the characters within the story.

When a person dreams—literally or otherwise—of meeting a movie star, aren’t they really fantasizing about meeting the characters the star has played on the screen? Since we have little or no experience of the actor’s actual personality—except through bogus TV publicity, magazine interviews, and suchlike—it’s an inescapable but little remarked on fact that fans are primarily connecting to the characters an actor plays, and not to the actor who embodies them. These characters exist in ways imaginal not actual: first of all, they exist in the mind of the writer who creates them; secondly they exist through the methodology, the emotional, psychological and physical identification, of the actors; and finally, they come into being in the consciousness of the audience itself. Since these characters have no actual existence—save that embodied by an actor, who then sheds the character as a snake sheds a skin—whatever reality they possess pertains to the Imaginal realms, i.e., that of consciousness. In which case, these characters are every bit as real, and maybe potentially even far more so, in our thoughts, memories, and fantasies than they can ever be on the screen. This is the realm from which they emerged and to which they really belong: the realm of the imagination.

Movie characters are drawn from the imaginal pool of the collective consciousness, and to this pool they return. But there is a steady growth or replication process that is occurring. Any given character—let’s say Harry Potter, to use an obvious example—is apparently the product of a single imagination (in this case, J.K. Rowling). Circumstances ensure that said character enters into the collective imagination, through the standard (though rare) process of publication, movie deal, and so forth, until the character is known to just about every teenager on the planet, and even most adults too. What we have seen here is the process by which a single imagination has tapped into the collective and then, echoing this process, the collective taps into the imagination of a single individual. Harry Potter began his existence as a thought-form belonging to one person; he now “belongs” to—has access to—billions of people’s consciousness. All of these people’s imagination is now working with, on, and through the idea of Harry Potter, and through their own personal relationship to “him”—their investment in him (i.e., whatever he represents to them). The influence of Harry Potter on the minds and hearts of children and teenagers (and by extension adults also), then, is immeasurable—it far transcends the influence of a single writer/creator. It is not J.K Rowling, or even her books, that are influencing kids; it is kids’ own imaginative interaction with the narratives and characters that belong to the imaginal world of the Harry Potter books.

This is often described as fanaticism or obsession, a cult phenomenon, and suchlike. Think of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and the degree to which fans have immersed themselves in the “culture”—the mythology—of these books, treating them not merely as if real, but as real. Such fanatical devotion to a set of narratives is like a game of make-believe that becomes as real as ordinary reality, and so ceases to be (merely) a game. When Walt Disney (perhaps the greatest single Tulpa-creator of the 20th century) coined the term “Imagineering”—in 1952—he was decades ahead of his time. The word is only now coming into its own, or rather, we are only now beginning to understand the necessity of such a word to account for the way in which our world, our reality, is created, or shaped, by the imagination, as directed and shaped by mass media. Architects of the Imaginal.

The inevitable question is: what are the effects of allowing these imagineered characters and narratives into our psyches? What is the result of our willing collaboration with the process by which these pop archetypes become active forces in our psyches, and ascend to mythic status? What happens when popular characters of fiction become icons to be observed, admired, emulated, and finally, worshipped—as gods?

In MS’s dream she describes how she created a tulpa, not of the actor Gene Hackman, but of a character played by Hackman (more or less), in some otherwise forgettable movie she saw years ago. We can assume that this thought-form is made up mostly of MS’s own psychic energy, that is, the emotional content, associations, fears, wishes, etc, which were originally invoked by the movie and/or which have built up (around this character and the actor who played him) ever since. So, although the thought-form is her own, having emerged from her unconscious to dialogue with her conscious mind, it has drawn in part its appearance, its flavor—even perhaps it’s intent—from a semi-fictional construct made actual through an actor’s performance. The Hackman (apropos name, since he has “hacked” into MS’s psyche!) tulpa potentially both informs her unconscious (providing symbolic content for it to play with) and draws energy off it. This last idea is key: archetypes (and tulpas are like small-fry archetypes) both feed our consciousness and feed off of it.

This is a difficult concept. There are very few existing models by which to understand these processes. We do not have a science of archetypes, much less of tulpa creation or of psycho-social engineering through mass-media! But it stands to reason that there must remain some connection, however subtle or discreet, between the thought-form visiting MS in her dreams and the original creation of the actor, writer and filmmakers, sourced in a movie MS saw years before. To go back to our first example: Harry Potter is the creation of J.K. Rowling’s imagination, and as such, he can never be entirely independent of it, any more than a human child can be fully separated from its genealogy, no matter how grown up and “independent” it may be.

Quantum mechanics has observed how atoms that interact become “entangled” forever after, creating a constant, instantaneous line of “sympathy” between them, meaning that whatever is done to one affects the other. So how much more so of two atoms that were once a single atom, as is the case with a mother and child, or a creator and thought-form? The basic understanding of quantum physics—and particularly of David Bohm’s holographic universe model—is more or less equivalent to the atavistic notion of sympathetic magik and of an animistic universe. From this view, all things are in relationship to one another and form part of a single web of consciousness. Likewise movies create little mini-realities within realities that are all interconnected, first of all by the actors and filmmakers, but then, of course, in the collective consciousness of the movie-going audience. The culture of movies and mass media forms an Imaginal (but also energetic) web of interconnectivity, an energetic grid which is laid on top of the primary “matrix” of human consciousness. Yet while all the strands of this web lead to the same center, they are not equal in and of themselves. As with any ordinary structure, the interweaving play of sound and light that is the “mass media consciousness grid” requires many key joints, pillars, hinges, and so forth—anything but a random unfolding, it is rather an elaborate, hierarchical infrastructure of power.

Tulpas are designed as archetypal resonators to communicate universal meanings. This is their primary function. But they have a secondary, equally vital (though somewhat more concealed) function, as “hunter-gatherers” and distributors of energy. They are sort of like psychic-magnetic fields hooked into the collective unconscious that siphon off the energy of individual consciousness in order, like vampires feeing on the blood of virgins, to energize and “immortalize” themselves. True archetypes return this vital energy to the Source (the Imaginal realm), for the creation of new forms of life, new expressions of consciousness. Manufactured archetypes—those that come from human agents and agencies, such as Harry Potter—are naturally loyal to their creators. They also return the energy to heir source, only in this case it is a localized, and even personal, source. If you are having difficulty with this concept, think about it in simple, material terms and you can observe a coarser version of this same process. Every time someone “invests” in the Harry Potter narrative by buying a book, audio book, DVD of the movies, or any of the countless items of merchandise connected to the whole franchise, a small percentage of that investment goes to the author, J.K Rowling. A larger slice then goes to the corporations—and the corporate employees—who have “handled” the material: the publishers, film companies, and suchlike. Following the money allows us to visualize the more discreet or refined process by which a tulpa draws off energy from the collective, and distributes it among the various agencies responsible for its creation.

This isn’t simply a matter of tulpas giving a little and taking a little in return. The taking—though generally parasitic—may not necessary be “bad,” any more than our paying money for a book or a movie in itself constitutes a loss or compromise on our part. (It depends whether we get our money’s worth, or most of all, whether we feel like we did.) Nor is the receiving of an imagineered a narrative into our consciousness necessarily advantageous to us. The two processes work hand in hand, as positive and negative poles in a magnetic flow: our investing in a narrative, and our consent to treat it as real and valid in our lives, allows the thought-forms to take hold of our consciousness, and there to transform them, for good or ill.

One primary agenda of paratainment narratives—Harry Potter is a good example here—is that they hijack energy that would potentially be used for our own empowerment or gnosis, redirecting it into surrogate forms of experience, namely, fantasies and wish-fulfillment. People pay to see life-affirming, “feel-good” movies and enjoy seeing “the triumph of the individual spirit against impossible odds.” Although we suspend our disbelief during such movies, and although the ostensible message of is that we, as individuals, can also triumph, that “we can accomplish anything we set out minds to if our hearts are pure,” what we are left with is an infantilized version of the heroic journey that has little or no bearing in our actual, daily lives. For two hours, we get lost in a wish-fulfillment dream-fantasy, at the end of which we must return to our regular lives, and face the fact that such fantasies cannot be applied to reality. So the time and energy that we might otherwise have invested—through our own “imagineering”—into self-transformation (and even good deeds)—has been “spent” on childish narratives that cannot in any way be acted out in the real world. In fact, the closest real-world equivalent of “lone individual triumphing against impossible odds through persistence and determination” is probably for us to become rich, successful, and adored by millions—in a word, movie stars! But this, we also know in our bones, can never be.


Newspaceman said...

Jason, good post as always but are you sure about the last 2 sentences - are you falling for the money myth here ?


Anonymous said...

A child or thought-form creation my never be truly "independant" yet it can transcend the mind that created it.

This is why a healthy psyche ends up using this imagry like a smorgasborg. "there is nothing new under the sun" after all. It's the job of the "artist" to create and interact with creations this way.

Yet so many minds have been dulled by dull artistry. Bad TV. LAME movies. Cheezie movie stars. The awakened mind can be more vigiliant with this stuff, but children are highly vulnerable recepticles for psychic refuse and most parents don't do a good job creating filters. We spend so much time as adults in this culture working out the narratives that were embedded in us as toddlers. Nursery rhymes now seem so benign when you consider what Teletubbies must do to a 2 year old psyche.

And yeah, I have to agree with newspaceman, what is UP with those last coupld lines!?
Otherwise, this is one of your best blogs in a while. You hit the meat of how they "hijack" the psyche of the "sleeper". The Matrix movies really opened me up to that realization. 100 Keanu dreams & later I cannot deny that! ;-0

Steve Mills said...

I agree a bit with Newspaceman, success for most people might be the movie star myth, but real success is realising that you don't need it,and all you need to do is be.

Great perspective on Tulpa's, very much enjoyed it

Jason and the Argonauts said...

Just being honest, and linking up the narrative. Maybe in this community, a better example would be: "Becoming a guru and awakening mankind to its destiny!: ; )

Jason and the Argonauts said...

P.S: Most kids when asked what they want to be these days, answer: "Famous."

SKIZO said...

In your honour and in the honour of wall the Writwrs and Poets, I published an ilustration.