Theatre magick: Aleister Crowley and "The Rites of Eleusis"

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Title

Theatre magick: Aleister Crowley and "The Rites of Eleusis"

Description

In October and November of 1910 seven one-act plays were produced at Caxton Hall, Westminster, London, under the collective title The Rites of Eleusis . These public productions were as much an experiment in audience and performer psychology as they were an exotic entertainment. Written, produced and directed by leading cast member Aleister Crowley, The Rites of Eleusis attempted to present a contemporary interpretation of an ancient myth in order to reignite the role and importance of mysticism in modern society. Through exposing the audience to a variety of sensory stimuli such as incense, rhythmic music, dance, and poetry, it attempted to create within the audience itself an altered state of consciousness which would make them co-celebrants within the performance/ritual. As Crowley stated in the original broadsheet advertisements for the productions, the Rites were intended "to illustrate the magical methods followed by a mystic society which seeks for illumination by ecstasy." But Crowley intended much more: he hoped the audience would not merely view an "illustration," but experience an actual state of "ecstasy." This experiment to recreate not only the "performer-priests" of antiquity but to include the audience as a part of the production foreshadowed the later work of theatre anthropologists and theorists such as Richard Schechner, and serves to illustrate one of the first attempts in the twentieth century to consciously create a psychological connection between theatrical and religious practice within the western hegemonic society.

A close reading of the first Rite demonstrates that there are specific occult motivations for every artistic decision reflected in the actual productions. Thus, the position in which performers are discovered at the opening of a rite is not merely an aesthetic choice, but is also reflective of specific criteria established by qabalistic, astrological, or other occult requirements. The costumes and properties used within the Rites were also dictated by deeper symbolism.

The appearance of performativity in a religious or worshipful context is repetitive throughout history, and time after time it is spirituality that gives birth to the drama, rather than spirituality evolving from a performative context.

Creator

Tupman, Tracy W.

Source

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305320892

Publisher

UMI Dissertations Publishing

Date

2019-07-17

Contributor

UMI Dissertations Publishing

Rights

Copyrighted by author.

Relation

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305320892

Format

PDF

Language

English

Type

PhD Dissertation

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

In October and November of 1910 seven one-act plays were produced at Caxton Hall, Westminster, London, under the collective title The Rites of Eleusis . These public productions were as much an experiment in audience and performer psychology as they were an exotic entertainment. Written, produced and directed by leading cast member Aleister Crowley, The Rites of Eleusis attempted to present a contemporary interpretation of an ancient myth in order to reignite the role and importance of mysticism in modern society. Through exposing the audience to a variety of sensory stimuli such as incense, rhythmic music, dance, and poetry, it attempted to create within the audience itself an altered state of consciousness which would make them co-celebrants within the performance/ritual. As Crowley stated in the original broadsheet advertisements for the productions, the Rites were intended "to illustrate the magical methods followed by a mystic society which seeks for illumination by ecstasy." But Crowley intended much more: he hoped the audience would not merely view an "illustration," but experience an actual state of "ecstasy." This experiment to recreate not only the "performer-priests" of antiquity but to include the audience as a part of the production foreshadowed the later work of theatre anthropologists and theorists such as Richard Schechner, and serves to illustrate one of the first attempts in the twentieth century to consciously create a psychological connection between theatrical and religious practice within the western hegemonic society.

A close reading of the first Rite demonstrates that there are specific occult motivations for every artistic decision reflected in the actual productions. Thus, the position in which performers are discovered at the opening of a rite is not merely an aesthetic choice, but is also reflective of specific criteria established by qabalistic, astrological, or other occult requirements. The costumes and properties used within the Rites were also dictated by deeper symbolism.

The appearance of performativity in a religious or worshipful context is repetitive throughout history, and time after time it is spirituality that gives birth to the drama, rather than spirituality evolving from a performative context.

Original Format

Paper

Files

http://www.johnlcrow.com/archive/files/original/da3988137e8d1d1dba9fd94a589f3911.pdf

Citation

Tupman, Tracy W., “Theatre magick: Aleister Crowley and "The Rites of Eleusis",” John L. Crow's Akashic Archive, accessed July 17, 2019, http://archive.johnlcrow.com/items/show/70.

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