“For better or for worse, the world of motion pictures has grown extensively within the larger world of so-called realities. But the film world is not foreign to the “real” world — the two are affiliated so intimately that they can be seen essentially to be made of the same fabric. Everyone is, in a sense, an actor and the world has often been compared to the stage by poets and philosophers. In point of fact, much of what passes for “action” in modern life can be called little but “acting,” and so the larger world has little ground to regard only the film world as being imitative.
In the film world, the actor has to think, feel and act according to the pattern held before him — to mirror, though temporarily, the personality of the character being portrayed by him. This can be said to be true to a considerable extent of those outside the world of motion pictures who struggle to follow the conventional pattern of living as they imagine it is expected of them, even if it cramps their inner individual expression. This is so not only figuratively but literally. While looking in the mirror, people often see themselves more through the eyes of others than through their own. The reflected image evokes in their minds the impression they will make on others and the expectations which others have of them — and the best that most can do is to try to look the part they play. Thus, the mirror literally and figuratively has become such a seemingly indispensable part of modern life that we might almost name this age a mirror-civilization.
When the actor plays the part of a king, he knows it to be an illusion and has, in a sense, an advantage over the king in the outer world who is not necessarily aware of any illusion. Both, however, are equally helpless in their failure to find the Real. No one condemns the actor who plays the part of an emperor or reformer as being a hypocrite, for although he appears to be what he is not, his honesty is taken for granted because his audience knows that he is acting a part. But there are many outside the world of stage and screen who, in actual life, do not appear what they really are.
The former are on the screen of their creation; the latter are behind the screen of their creation.
There are specific claims and privileges as well as specific duties and potentialities that no actor can afford to ignore. An actor who may be technically faultless in his part is yet trivial and worthless if he tries to evade his inherent spiritual potential. The film world cannot escape its obligations to the larger world on which it makes so substantial an impression, and these obligations demand that its spiritual potential take precedence over the desire to make money. The cine-writers [screenwriters], the producers and the actors should realize their spiritual potential instead of looking at their art merely or mainly as a business. The more vividly they realize this, the more dignified and satisfactory will be the results of their efforts, and their inner account with themselves will be vastly gratifying even though the same might not be said of their account in the bank. If the film world cannot or will not give the greatest importance to this spiritual potential, it is a failure.
The ordinary man, whose urgent need is to relax from the stress of life, to lessen the sense of insecurity and try to fill the emptiness within (for which greed and war are mostly responsible) turns instinctively to the fleeting diversion of entertainment. And the film world affords this to a great extent. Therefore the film world, which still has one of the greatest scopes for influencing the lives of myriads, should ask itself whether it is utilizing its spiritual potential to the full so that man may be helped in his search for Truth, or whether it is merely pandering to his pleasure of the false; whether it is encouraging and inspiring youth to face the responsibilities of the world of tomorrow, or retarding youth’s inner growth with an overdose of sex and violent crime films; and whether it is striving after wealth and fame at the cost of man’s inherent thirst for the spiritual and uplifting.
The correct solution of every problem can come only from Indivisible Truth. There can be no factitious cleavage in the unity of life by magnifying the often fallacious distinctions between theory and practice, the artificial and the natural, the real and the false. The emphasis of every aspect of the One Indivisible Life must be on the underlying unity, not on apparent differences — and this applies with as much force to those in the film world as to those in the outer world.
The great initiator of the Truth of your being is divine love — love that burns the limiting self, that disarms all fears, that rises above temptations, that is deaf to the voices of lust and jealousy, that expresses the infinite spiritual potential. Those in the film world have also to play their part unreservedly in the divine game of life, aspiring to the highest within man. Then only can they find real beauty; and then only can they fully express it.
The spiritual potential of those in the film world, though in no way different from that of those outside it, must often be differently expressed. You can, even as an actor, experience and express divinity. In the world of the motion picture and by its means, you can learn and you can teach. But if you do not find love or happiness, truth or fulfillment in yourself, you cannot truly impart them to your audience. You cannot inspire unless you are yourself inspired, nor can you awaken love in insensitive souls without yourself being pierced by it.
The actor has to realize that real and living beauty is made manifest only by discovering and releasing the spiritual potential within himself. Artifice can, no doubt, do much to heighten the fresh and radiant beauty that is natural to youth. But this is artifice and not art, and such transient beauty is poles apart from real beauty. Without vision your art will be shallow; do not therefore hesitate to glean that vision from the Great Ones. This will give you a living inspiration, bringing fulfillment in your life.
So my message to the film world is: Do not play to the gallery or the salary, but play to the Infinite within. Live in the presence of God, even while acting your part, so that you can be true to yourself, to your partners and employers, and to the larger and One Indivisible Life of which you are each an inseparable part. If the world is a stage, God is the only producer, and you can never be anything but a trivial actor if you are not in unison with Him.”
– Meher Baba