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Girl and Horse

B5. The Religion of the Drama.

Whatever in art, in song, in poetry, in painting, in oratory or elocution, in the expression of emotion or sentiment by music or muscular movement, compels our admiration, interests us, and causes us, for the time being, to forget ourselves or occupation, has the effect of resting our minds. If the mind or spirit is rested, the body is always rested. Mind and body in this way are literally re‑created with new thought‑element (for thought is element), and the highest, the finest, the purest expression of sentiment, being the most powerful and healthful order of thought, can be and is absorbed by us as sent from him or her who expresses it, and being so absorbed is a source of rest and strength, a vigor and a medicine, to the mind and body. The stage concentrates and masses, as to time and place, many arts and talents—poetry, painting, music, oratory (for all inspired acting is a species of oratory). It must have the best service of the writer, the dramatist, the architect and decorator in the construction and ornamentation of the theatre, the best service of the mechanic in the complicated mechanism for spectacle and scenery. It calls to its aid chemistry, in the generation of light and color for scenic effect. Directly or indirectly, there is scarcely an art or science you can name but whose help or aid the stage requires. The employment of all this art can, in an hour, rest a thousand or two thousand people, divert their thought or the attitude of their minds temporarily from their cares or occupations, and rest and recuperate those departments of mind employed on such occupations.

The artists, if inspired by love of their art, are also rested and recuperated by the exercise of such art, for all inspiration is an invigorator and re‑creator. It is only when the artist tries to force or simulate inspiration that such, to him, irksome effort exhausts, as all irksome effort exhausts. The actors or singers are also re‑created, re‑invigorated, warmed, cheered in mind and benefited in body by the flow to them, in thought‑element, of sympathy, admiration, and appreciation from their audiences.

The drama, then, when properly used, is a re‑creator and an invigorator of human minds. The pulpit is very near the stage, for in it stands the man who represents, or should represent, the highest result as to power of human aspiration; the priest,—or as the word indicates, the chief prayer or chief aspirer,—whose effort it is and whose pleasure and recreation it is, not only to receive from higher sources the last unfoldment of truth, the last revelation of the law of life, and convey it to his hearers, but to illustrate it and make it clearer by every device of parable or comparison, to make its presentation forcible through the disciplined action on his body of the force born of zeal and enthusiasm in his spirit, which is the essence of oratory; to be dramatic in speech and action, not in the general and stilted application of that word, but dramatic as throwing on his hearers a whole drama in a few sentences.

No artist nor actor, no singer, no dancer, can afford to dissipate life’s forces in any kind of intemperance. Art of any kind gives a solid reason against excess in eating or drinking, or the exhaustion that comes of anger or evil thinking, for the force so expended is just so much force taken from that art; and the actor or singer who goes upon the stage with his powers weakened by any excess, soon learns in some way that his services are not as desirable as he would have them; and although genius may shine for a time, despite the wrong it inflicts upon itself, yet, at last, genius, as we often see, goes down and out of sight when it disobeys the laws of life, “not one jot or tittle of which shall fail,” either in exacting inevitable penalty for wrong living or in giving sure coming reward and crown for right or righteous living.

In every department of those giving recreation amusement to the public—the actor, the singer, the dancer, the acrobat, the circus rider, the athlete, the gymnast—are the laws of health, the means of securing and keeping the most vigor of mind and vigor of muscle, flexibility of mind and flexibility of muscle, more studied and practiced, ill proportion to numbers, than with any other class among us. For their art, their reputations, their incomes depend directly on their daily physical and mental condition. Neither physical or intellectual athlete can, for a single hour, delegate business to clerk, foreman, or overseer. It is their light which is expected to shine. Public admiration, appreciation and expectation are the most rigid of monitors in compelling the artist to travel in that straight and narrow path of temperance in all things, out of which to stray brings certain penalty of exhaustion and dimming of their light. Well, also, do these people know the increased strength, inspiration and clearness of mind that comes of keeping permanently in the calm, reposeful frame of mind, of avoiding moods of anger as sources of weakness, of fighting off the deadly sin of worry and fretfulness, knowing all this to be force expended in tearing themselves to pieces.

So in his eating and drinking, in all care and love for the health and vigor and elasticity of his body, to make it as perfect an instrument as possible for his higher unseen self to use, to act on, and to act through.

The highest culture in any art will inevitably, as the laws governing growth in such art become more and more understood, lead any man or woman to take better care of their minds and bodies. The best care of the mind, the highest morality, the desire or aspiration for the thought freest from hate, envy, and low motive, will give the highest health, the greatest vigor, and the greatest genius.

As the race grows in refinement, it will take less and less pleasure in the drama which depicts death or suffering, or heart torture of any kind. I am not seeking to “ reform” the stage. I am not preaching a crusade against any form of the present drama. People will have what they most want, and that as long as they want it. I doubt if any evil in the world was ever scolded out of existence. Scolding is only resisting one form of evil by fighting it with another—that other being the intemperance of hate, and hate often directed, not so much at the thing scolded at as the persons using that thing. But it is possible these opinions may find sympathy with some who have become wearied of dramatic vivisection tables. It partakes of the ghastly fancied to pay a dollar or two to see misery on the stage, when there’s so much of the real article outside to be seen for nothing.

Why must there be a deadly, deep‑dyed villain in so many dramas, a being incapable of goodness? Is it impossible to illustrate virtue, bravery, honesty, without a background of vice? Is it necessary to have a spoiled mackerel on the dinner‑table to appreciate more keenly the savor and flavor of a fresh one?

The crying need and demand of our time is for more of real recreation. We are not a cheerful people. Thousands go home from work to mope or grumble. Look at the general expression on the faces of our crowds on car or ferry‑boat, going to and returning from work. A smile, a cheerful face, a face good to look upon, is scarce. Glum, silent, serious, sour, but not always sober. There is not enough of the healthful stimulation of recreation. Lacking this, humanity runs to the unhealthy, artificial source of stimulation and temporary strength and cheer. Ten thousand barrooms supply it.

The force we call mind is always at work. It must work. If you do not organize its forces it will work disorganized. The same force spent in idle lounging on a corner, can, otherwise directed, paint a picture or carve a statue, or admire the picture, or panorama, or scenic representation.

People do not want to see plays to be taught moral lessons. There are hard lessons enough outside in everybody’s daily experience. We need plays, not so much to instruct as to amuse and rest brains. Rest a mind properly and it will instruct itself. It is innate in human nature to run away from a forced lesson. It is always a sign that the lesson is unattractive,—that somebody is teaching mechanically, perfunctorily, and with more of love for the pay than the effort. You put love in an art or in its teaching, and scholars will love to be taught. I sympathize now more than ever with the boy who runs away from school and takes to the woods. His running away is not a compliment to the teacher or the system, and is a compliment to the trees.

There has been, within the last ten or fifteen years, a great increase of the amateur element, so called. Its ability is marked, and is now recognized by the best mind of the profession. This supply comes in answer to a demand almost as yet unspoken for more recreation. It hardly knew the remedy. Yet the remedy is springing up on every side. It lies with the young people who desire to study for the stage. They are over all the land. There are places for them all, and channels for them all, if theirs is real ability. Love of art, for dramatic representation, is increasing its phases continually, and there are ten eccentric or individual characterizations where there was one thirty years ago. There is a mysterious law in nature which always brings the supply of a thing, or element or talent needed, before we really know that it is needed.

The drama, with its thousands of theatres, its tens of thousands of actors, its millions nightly filling its temples, should have its college equal in dignity and respectability to Yale or Harvard. That university should gather under one home roof the young men and women, who over all the land are wishing for dramatic and elocutionary training. It should grant a home and a protection for these young people, and such home should be presided over by a woman whose heart is in the work, and whose delight it would be to make the home for those who came to be educated.

There are few homes for the scholar in any of our colleges. There are boarding houses—sometimes mockeries of home, where the student is often made at home with all the annoyances of the family.

Home is the crowning effort, concentration and result of the highest culture and civilization, and of all places the school most needs it. Its education and influence goes beyond that of school or lecture room. That influence, that order of thought, that society most brought to bear upon you, when in the latter part of the day you are wearied and negative, and thereby easier to be swayed for good or ill, is of vast import for good or ill, and very often determines for good or ill the morals and fortunes of a young man or woman.

In the refined and ever refining home, education never stops. You create an atmosphere of refined thought, and all within its range are ever absorbing of such thought, be they at table or in the parlor; and where there is generated an atmosphere of tattle, scandal, littleness, narrowness, and envy, you absorb also of that contagion. It dims mind, diseases body, and negatives the effect of the best teachings of the class or lecture room. The coming dramatic university should have its theatre perfect in all appointments, its museum of costumes of all ages, its gymnasium, its lectures at intervals from those prominent in the professions, who could thus give suggestion founded on their individual experience and individual style. Receiving the sanction of the highest culture, its performances could be made remunerative. So could be the lectures given by prominent actors and actresses, and these in their preparation would derive benefit from a temporary change of occupation.

It should have also its own chapel, a chapel devoted to no one creed, but to all creeds; a chapel in architecture, painting and statuary, filled with symbolic representation of the highest and divinest idealizations; a chapel always open, where those so inclined could come and sit at all times, day or night, in silence—a place devoted to the sacred and mighty power of silent thought—a place to ask for and certainly receive what we all want, power; one place to which wisdom and inspiration, now known neither to earthly book or teacher, can be brought, and which, if you are receptive and teachable, and devout, you can and will receive; one place where the lower motive and sentiment of the world should not enter. For when you make a place like this, you open a door for higher intelligence than that seen of earth to come, and create an atmosphere where mind full of idea, wisdom, suggestion, relative to all that can advance human happiness and art, can come and drop thoughts like seeds in your minds. For it is only in silence, and by means of periods and places of silence, that the fullest force of the infinite and eternal mind can be by us felt and received.

The drama is rapidly asserting its worth, its use, and its dignity, and will repel every shade and approach of that social ostracism born and handed down of a barbaric era, when the man who could split the most skulls with the mace or sword took precedence of all other form of intellect; and wherever society today copies this sentiment, it copies a fashion first set by some medieval royal bully, who designated the man who could write by the menial term “scrivener,” and sat the priest at table with the servants.

Q's note:

Stars gazing brings Happiness to my Heart.  Its Magnificent and Peaceful Beauty is very soothing to me!  Do you feel the same? :)



Image Credit:


The Luxury Travel Expert (n.d.). [Image]. Retrieved July 1, 2021, from


Mulford, P. (1886-1887). The religion of the drama. Your forces and how to use them (pp.311-320). Hollister, Missouri: YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. doi: 2015:01:16:10:43:09

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