breaking taboos releases a magical freedom if done in certain contexts. this is true and important, but only in the first stages of magical training. taboo can be defined as social or moral forbiddens which maintain a dogmatic power structure by fear of what is outside that structure.
the things that are taboo, and hence are magically charged, in the normal social reality, are not taboo in the reality of the magician. there are no taboos or morals within the reality of the magician. for example, when i eroplay with someone, the eroplay itself is not taboo or transformative for me. the being with the other person in the eroplay is transformative, but not in the taboo dynamic. for me, eroplay, ritual reality, etc. is just everyday living. magicians will not do a lot of things, but this is never from a taboo/moral consideration, but from a practical ethical knowledge of how things work.
in what i do, breaking taboos is important in the first stages. in the public and private performances, as well as in my short-term work with people, breaking taboos plants seeds and time bombs, cracks the normal frame to let in a glimpse of an alternate reality.
but within the apprenticeship, there comes a time where, if the student relates to the magic life as breaking taboos, rather than as her everyday life, it becomes clear that she is taking a vacation from the normal social world, rather than truly living beyond taboos as her own personal reality. the first ring of the chero apprenticeship, introduction to cherotic magic, lasts for 10 weeks. i meet with the student once a week for 2-4 hours. (for someone who lives outside the bay area, this ring can be done as a 10-day intensive.**) this ring focuses on the cherotic basics of the magical work. this is done one on one, focusing on how the student can use these basics in her life even if she does not go on to the advanced rings.
the break between each ring has proven to be vital. the minimum break period after the first ring is a month. there is no commitment to return from the break.
the second ring, practice and performance of cherotic magic, is 6 months. this is an intensely physical training, which includes both public and private ritual. this training will affect every aspect of the student’s life profoundly.
the third ring, living magic, is 2 years and is focused on the student’s devoting his life for the 2 years to the aiding of the shaman in the magic work. because of this, during the break between the second and third rings, after the student hears the calling for this devotion, he should arrange his personal life to make this devotion possible.
beyond these first three rings of magical training lie four deeper rings into the realm of the responsibility of the shaman. but it is important to stress that each ring is complete in itself, reaching a different level of shamanism.
**the out-of-towner may stay at the ashram/salon of all possibilities during this intensive. subject to availability.
In the primitive world, reality shaping was the function of magic and of the shamans. The shamans used rituals and myths as dream boats to travel outside of the normal frame of reality into the web of all possibilities to communicate with the gods and to shape reality for their tribe. Sometimes through the myths and rituals, the shamans took the whole tribe into the web. But often the shamans went deeper into the web alone…alone because of the increasing dangers that exist in the web. This magical activity was seen by the tribe as vital to their survival. The shamanistic activity was not limited by the reality frame, by what was practical, although the practical reality was shaped by the shamanistic activity. As a result of these common mythical journeys, the frame was very flexible for all in the tribe.
But this began to change in the modern cultures, especially in the West. The shamanistic activity began to divide into philosophy, religion, art, science, and the occult. Each of these areas began to subdivide into sects, schools, disciplines, mediums, etc. They also divided into “pure” and “applied.” “Pure” activities are done for themselves to explore, shape, create reality, to travel outside the normal frame, to capture possibilities not enclosed within the frame, to bring these “new” possibilities into the frame to magically widen or shift the frame of reality.
The “applied” activities try to use, to control, harness these new possibilities into the service of the established frame. This is the washte brain activity. In the modern culture, the pure activity is seen as being of value only as it relates to the applied activity. This severely limits the magic change of reality shaping which is what the pure activity is meant to be. What also limits the shamanistic magic in the modern world is the fragmentation of the pure activity. There is a holistic myth developing in science, in philosophy, in art and theatre, in religion, in psychology, in the occult. But this myth cannot get into the frame because the modern myth travelers are talking, thinking, and seeing in different technical languages, depending on their fields. Because of this, they do not realize they are visualizing the same myth. So the new possibilities contained in this myth cannot get through except in fragments.
The expansions and contractions are the natural cycles of growth. They are life breathing. Each cycle is different in length, depending on what is happening in the life.
Both the expansion and the contraction phases have their own dangers of illusions. In expansions, things open up and become easy. Opportunities and people are attracted to the student by the chero. When this happens, the student is tempted to throw away her framework, or to go outside of it, to pursue, to run after these opportunities and people. If she does this, she loses both her base and what attracted these things to her in the first place. She finds herself out of power.
Another common reaction to expansions is to think one is not worthy enough, not able or strong enough to handle all of the good that life suddenly offers her. Such a person destroys the expansion, her framework, and sometimes even herself to avoid having her “unworthiness” be found out, to avoid the responsibilities that being happy and creating a full life bring. This reaction is more widespread than one might think. The student usually has little problem accepting criticism from the teacher. But when the teacher starts talking about the student’s strengths, abilities, and potentials, the student very often forgets her pact of trust, and starts arguing with the teacher. This is because if the student accepts her worthiness, her strengths, abilities and potentials, she is admitting her responsibility for creating her life and reality, and the effect she has on others. The student should trust the teacher even when the teacher is praising her, although this praise may be rare.
In contractions, the student faces a different set of illusions. In contractions, everything seems, appears to be falling apart. What the person thought would be a direct path to what she wants falls apart. People start flaking out on her, leaving her. Things get hard and difficult. Things seem to stop happening for her. Her life sphere gets small. The pace of living becomes slow.
Most people panic in contractions. They feel trapped, penned in. They feel like they are losing everything, going backward, dying as who they thought they were. When this happens, they grab onto things and people to save themselves and to get what they want; or they give up, thinking they are not strong or worthy enough to get to all possibilities. They usually tell themselves they really do not want all possibilities, they really want less. They lie to themselves to make their settling for less more livable.
In reality, contractions are periods in which the old phase is being rearranged to prepare for the new expansion that is coming. Some old stuff has to be burnt away to make ready for the new. Some valuable stuff is stored away to be used later. This feels like losing. This loss is not real. The creative progress in contractions is far too complex for us to rationally, logically understand or try to rationally plan out. Evolution is an automatic process when you let go into it. When you know that after every expansion comes a contraction, you will be less tempted to break out of your framework to pursue some glamorous or exciting avenues that appear to be more direct routes to what you want. You can be sure they are not.
When you know that after every contraction comes an expansion, you can better practice active passivity, which is the key to using contractions as a quiet building of creative potential. In this way, in both expansions and contractions, you can maintain the even focus that puts you in control of your reality. By knowing the cycles of expansions and contractions are irregular, you can relax, not holding on to anything, but not waiting in dread for the next contraction to hit. This is one of the aspects of erour, the vulnerable power.
In the early days of people being diagnosed with AIDS, one of Frank’s students, Carlos, got the AIDS diagnosis. Frank told him his job now was to bring death into life and to live and die joyfully. Carlos followed Frank in this and was a joy and inspiration to all of us around him.
Frank believed in type casting. After Carlos found out that he had AIDS, Frank cast him as the “dying man” in his performances. At the 5+ hour ritual performances Frank had nude, body painted Carlos wearing his “I have AIDS” sign around his neck inside of a small tent. Each audience member was led into the tent before entering the performance space and Carlos talked to them briefly about death, that it is not something to fear, that it is not painful in itself, it is part of life. When Carlos passed away he was in a very peaceful, joyful state of mind. When we got the word that Carlos had passed we looked at each other and said let’s have ice cream sundaes!! (Eating ice cream was one of the indulgences Carlos allowed himself with Frank’s encouragement, as part of his dying process.)
Below is a transcription of an excerpt of a conversation recorded December 10, 1995 at Father George’s house in San Francisco. Frank Moore, Linda Mac, Mikee LaBash, Corey Nicholl, Father George, and Louise Scott were present. (Father George was a friend of Frank’s during his time in Santa Fe, New Mexico when Frank lived with Louise Scott and her family.)
Linda: What, the house? No, Carlos? Um, one of Frank’s students, Carlos, died of AIDS-related stuff. And he’d been working with Frank for a few years when he found out that he had AIDS. And Frank said, “O.k., your job is to die as lustfully as you’ve lived, and to bring death into life.” ‘Cause it was a whole group of us that were part of like the community that were working with Frank, and doing performances and stuff too. And so, well he did fine for a long time …
Frank: I …
Linda: … You cast him, Frank cast him as the dying man in performances, after he found that out. And so people, it was in the all-night ritual performances, people are lead in by nude body-painted dancers, and it’s like all very ritualistic and quiet, and there’s body music playing. And they would be lead to this little kind-of cave made out of back-drops, and Carlos would be in there, nude and body-painted with a sign that says he’s the Dying Man. And it would be like two people at a time, and they’d be left in the room with him for like a minute or two, and he’d give them a rap about death. And he said, that death is not painful in itself. And it’s not something to be feared, that it’s just a transition. And then they’d be lead out. And most people actually didn’t realize that …
Louise: … that he really was.
George: … that he was really dying.
Linda: … the dying man. And …
George: Did he do it when he was really sick? I mean, did he continue doing it?
Linda: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah, right up to the time he died. And at the point where his body really started to go … he was like really fine up until that point. And then, he moved upstairs with a couple that had been his friends, so they could take more care of him. And they called us, and they said, they called us one afternoon and they said, “We’re worried about Carlos because he won’t get out of bed and he won’t eat.” And we had a tour coming up to Portland that Carlos was planning on going on with us. And so, Frank gets in the car, we drive over to San Francisco. Carlos is lying in bed, doing this Camille thing, you know, that was his like picture of himself dying. (all laughing) And Frank said, “Look, you have to look and see if you’re dying or not. If you’re dying, tell us, and we’ll help you die. If you’re not dying, (Frank screams), you have to eat, you have to start having fun with us. Eating, you have to be in shape to go to Portland.” And he said, “Take the night to think about it, and tell me in the morning.” And he said, he told Carlos that people are afraid to push him because they’re afraid that he’s gonna die if they push him. And he said, “I don’t care if you die, because it’s better to die than to live and be a wimp.” And so, you know … and next morning they call us and they said, “I don’t know what you did, but not only is he eating but he insisted on getting up at the table.” (George laughs)
And it kind of went up and down for a while. We started going to his house for sessions ’cause he was too sick to come to meet with Frank. And Frank had everybody …
Frank: He came to …
Linda: Oh, an all-night thing? Yeah. He had never gone to one of the twenty-four hour, like Frank does these twenty-four hour like workshop type things …
George: Carlos had never gone?
Linda: … and Carlos had never done one of them, and he really wanted to. So we had one scheduled, and he was in the hospital, and he got out like the night before, he was in and out of the hospital a lot. So he shows up with like, it was like a portable hospital room … Well he was late. O.k., so … when he had first started meeting with Frank years before, he was late for everything. And that was one of the first things that Frank said had to go. You know, “you have to be on time anytime you say you’re gonna be some place.” So he was always on time then. And now, here he is, like really sick, depending on other people, and he’s like a couple hours late for this thing. And so, while we’re waiting for him to come … a lot of the people that were in the workshop had never, didn’t know any of us. They were just doing this workshop they had signed up with to do with Frank. So Frank said, “Well I have someone coming who’s gonna be playing the part of a dying man.” And he starts giving this whole rap about how he’s gonna pretend he’s dying of AIDS, and he’s going to da da da da … And so Carlos shows up then two hours later with his entourage of like he’s on oxygen, he has all these medications for his skin and all this stuff. And he’s in tears. He’s so upset ’cause he’s late. And he comes in, “Frank!” You know, and he’s like … and Frank, you know, lets him talk for a minute, and he turns to everybody, he says, “This is him. See?”
And Carlos is looking, and Frank said, “I told them that you’re playing the part of the dying man.” And Carlos just looks at Frank and goes, “O.k., Frank!” You know … (all laugh) And Frank had set it up so that he could set his own pace, ’cause we didn’t know like what he’d be up for. And he said, just join in as much as you want. And by the end of it, he was off oxygen. He like was totally, you know, back into everything and he was involved in everything, through the whole thing. He didn’t like take a break at any point. And he said that it, you know, he felt a lot better at the end of it. And the process of him, he would kind of go in and out of being o.k. …
George: Yeah. That happens pretty regularly.
Linda: Yeah. At one point when we were over there, he told Frank that Frank didn’t know what it was like to have to depend on people for your every need. (all explode screaming/laughing) Which he denied saying. He said, “Frank, you made that up. I never said that.” The thing would be, Frank had, you know, everybody that was part of this little community, somebody was with him all the time, and they’d just hang out with him, or play cards or just whatever, you know. And he would be this, (plays Camille) like “Ohhh … you knowww … I’m in soooo …” Like that. And then we’d get a card game going. Boom. He’s sharp, he’s fine, nothing hurts, he’s winning. (all laugh) You know, and so … that was like during his period when he’s going in and out of things. One time he’s in the hospital and the Portland trip is approaching and Frank had told him he has to be able to walk, you know, to go on this tour. And, we get there and it turns out, he’s not walking. He’s not getting out of bed, he’s not moving.
George: He’s in the hospital at this point.
Linda: Yeah, he’s in the hospital, this is one of those like three or four day things, and then he’d be in and out for different things. And, Frank said, “O.k., I told you you should be walking. I want you to lean on Michael,” and another guy that was with us, Rourke, “and walk as far as the door and back to your bed.” And he says, “Well I’m not gonna lean on anybody then. I’m just gonna walk.” He gets to the door, and the door is open. He waits ’til he gets to the frame so that he’s in view of the nurse’s station, and GRABS onto the frame, trying to get Frank in trouble!
And Frank just yells at him, and says, “I told you to lean on Michael and Rourke. Now you lean on them to get back to bed.” And that all happens, and he goes through this trauma over that, and we play cards, he’s fine, you know. And we’re leaving and the nurse calls us over and she said, “What did you do to get him to walk?” It turns out that they’d been trying to get him to walk. He said he needed a physical therapist. They brought a physical therapist. The physical therapist said, “You should be able to walk.”
“Oh no, I need a doctor.” They bring a doctor: “You should be able to walk.” No, he can’t walk. And then they see him walking, you know. And so Frank said, “Well, not only that. He’s supposed to walk a step more each day.” The nurse said, “Fine, I’ll enforce that.” (all laugh)
So by the time he died …
George: You should have billed him. (all laugh)
Frank: Uh huh!
Linda: You did! Oh yeah, he paid. He paid all the way to the end. By the time he died he was pretty consistently at peace with it, and a pretty jolly soul with it all. It was very neat, and … so it actually felt, you know, it wasn’t as drastic a thing when he died, ’cause he was so kinda right there with us. Yeah.
Frank: We ate …
Linda: Right. The day he died, we decided … you know, his whole thing when he was dying was that, his fantasy had been having ice cream or something, something like that. And Frank said, “Pffft, you know, you’re dying, have as much ice cream as you want.” So he used to have the people he was staying with make him milkshakes, so he could get up in the middle of the night and drink a milkshake if he wanted it. So, the day that he died, we’re sitting there, and we said, “Well, let’s have a sundae.” You know, so that started like a ritual. So on his birthday and on his death day we go out and we have these decadent sundaes, and it never makes us sick, you know …
George: (laughing) Banana splits …
Louise: Right, you just do it.
Linda: … if we did that on any other day, it would be like “Ooohhh.” You know, but we do that …
George: Oh jeez … People do dance around dying, though. We’ve certainly, we have people who come this close, you think they’re gonna be gone in two hours, and then they back away. And then … for another couple months, and approach it again, and back away. Just never know …
George: … but we’ve never had anyone eating ice cream on the way out. (laughs)
Frank: Carlos was joking …
Linda: … with the nurse, as he died. Right. He was getting a transfusion, and he was joking with the nurse, and he just passed.
George: He was getting, what, how did, did he have cardiac arrest, you know, was that the thing …?
Linda: I guess that was it. Did he have cardiac arrest as he was having the transfusion? (Frank – yes) Yeah. Yeah.
This is the text that displayed in the “Dying Man” tent along with a large photo of Carlos wearing his “I have AIDS” sign at performances after Carlos died:
I AM CARLOS. FOR THE LAST YEAR, MY ROLE IN THESE DREAMS HAS BEEN TO GREET THE PEOPLE, AND TO PREPARE THEM FOR THEIR DEATH WHICH THEY (AND YOU) WILL EXPERIENCE IN THIS DREAM. I TOLD THEM THAT DEATH IS NOT SOMETHING TO BE FEARED, SOMETHING THAT IN ITSELF IS NOT PAINFUL. I TOLD THEM, IN MY MARVELOUS VINCENT PRICE VOICE, THAT DEATH IS A PART OF LIFE TO BE LUSTFULLY RELISHED AND ENJOYED.
I WISH YOU COULD HAVE HEARD MY VINCENT PRICE. I TRIED TO GET HERE IN MY BODY, WHICH WAS FINALLY FITTING THE BODY OF THE DYING MAN. I EVEN FANTASIZED ABOUT DYING HERE WHILE I WAS TALKING TO YOU ABOUT DEATH. BUT THAT WAS NOT TO BE. 2:35 P.M., JANUARY 30, 1989, MY HEART STOPPED. BUT I AM HERE WITH YOU BECAUSE LIFE, WHICH DEATH IS A PART OF, GOES ON.
WHEN I FOUND OUT A YEAR AGO I HAD AIDS, THE KNOWING I WAS DYING LIBERATED ME SO THAT I COULD LIVE MORE FULLY, MORE HAPPILY, MORE OPENLY, MORE PEACEFULLY THEN I EVER LIVED BEFORE. FRANK, ALWAYS A BELIEVER IN TYPE-CASTING, CREATED FOR ME THE DYING MAN ROLE TO SPREAD THE LIBERATION TO PEOPLE WHOSE DEATHS ARE NOT IN SIGHT. A LOT OF PEOPLE THOUGHT THE “I HAVE AIDS” SIGN I WORE AROUND MY NECK AND THE DYING MAN WERE FICTIONS OF THE ART. BUT WHEN THEY DISCOVERED THAT I WAS REALLY DYING, THE DREAM BROKE OUT OF ART, AND INTO THE REALITY OF EVERYDAY. I HOPE BY MY BEING WITH YOU IN THIS WAY IT WILL SPREAD THE LIBERATION TO YOU.
Videos with Carlos
EZTV – Wrapping/Rocking & Statues Los Angeles, California, September 9, 1988.
Playing with Reality (in two parts) Berkeley, California, November 19 & 20 1988
The Outrageous Horror Show Berkeley Square, Berkeley, California, October 29, 1988
In 1987 Frank started putting together Readers for his apprentices. He called them Frank Moore‘s Shamanistic Apprenticeship Readers. We put together the last reader, #26, in 2013, the year Frank passed away.
Here are the contents of the first two readers. The complete list of contents for all of the readers is below as a download link.
Frank Moore’s Apprenticeship Reader #1
“Statement of Principles” chapter from Towards a Poor Theatre (pgs. 255-262) by Grotowski.
Chapter 5 “Performer Training Interculturally” from Between Theater and Anthropology by Richard Schechner.
Chapter 30 “What Paradise?” from The Living Theatre (pgs. 167-175) by Pierre Biner.
“Tu es le fils du quelqu’un” [You are someone’s son] (pgs 30-41) by Jerzy Grotowski from TDR Fall 1987.
Frank Moore’s Apprenticeship Reader #2
Chapter “Nakedness” from Environmental Theater (pgs. 87-124) by Richard Schechner.
“Karen Finley A Constant State of Becoming” an interview by Richard Schechner (pgs. 152-158) September 1987 from TDR.
“The Decline and Fall of the (American) Avant-Garde” chapter from The End of Humanism (pgs. 13-128) by Richard Schechner.
Chapter 37 “PARADISE NOW: The Revolution of Transformation” from The Living Theatre (pgs.205-223) by Pierre Biner. “A Night at the Symposium” (pgs.31-47) by Robert Brustein.
“From Ritual to Theatre and Back” (pgs. 90-91) from Essays on Performance Theory by Richard Schechner.
“Selective Inattention” & “Ethology and Theatre” (pgs. 147-179) from Essays on Performance Theory by Richard Schechner.