Conscious Media is Transformative Media. What is that? How can you create it?
Writers schooled in the ageless Wisdom have been consciously creating transformative myths and rituals for thousands and thousands of years. That's nothing new. What is new is that you don't have to go sit in a cave in the Himalayas for ten years, living on cold rice and yak butter to get the information. Much of this formerly secret information is now - on purpose - available to practically anybody with the desire to learn about it.
Egyptian temples were often designed as transformative media systems: a virtual reality journey in stone, light, size, and shadow. [The Mummy movies hint at this but the writers either didn't really know about it or kept it under wraps.]
Many of the early Greek tragedies were designed to bring about personal catharsis. Oedipus Rex and the grisly Atriedes clan are cautionary tales writ large. They transform the attentive audience member from being careless with their passions to cautiously projecting the consequences of their actions and hopefully deciding not to rashly kill and/or marry strangers, and not to use one's kith and kin as part of the cuisine. [See Julie Taymor's versions of Greek playwright Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.]
Shakespeare penned a lot of transformative media as well as some just for fun. One school of thought says he was an Initiate of the Mystery Schools who placed esoteric symbolism throughout his works.
The Ring Cycle of Wagnerian operas, based on Teutonic myths and having a distinct echo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, have at their moral core the transformation of feckless gods and greedy mortals into better citizens of a new world where laws trump emotions and humanity will rise to the fore.
Which brings us to today, and to you and your stories.
It's really great that there are so many of you media content creators in so many formats who want to uplift and redeem or at least inspire humanity. But Himalayan cave or not, transformation is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it and not just talking about it.
How can you help? By picking up the reins of those classic conscious creators and carrying on the traditions of enlightenment and improvement - in your own exciting new interpretations.
What exactly does Conscious Media transform and how does that work?
Contrary to the tone of the moment, Conscious Media is not just feel-good media.
In fact, some of the most transformative media is consciously designed to bring you to tears or to your knees. Some of it is even designed to scare the living daylights out of you.
It's what comes after those effects that makes the media transformative or not. What it should give you - if even momentarily - is a higher perspective plus some instruction on how to get there.
It's no accident that all the Mystery Schools, many religions, and most formal puberty rites feature dramatic re-enactments of death and re-birth. The whole point of transformation is to die to one way of being and be re-born into a new way of being.
The whole point of initiatory systems is to affect a rise up through the chakras - the Centers of Motivation. What are these Centers? They are physiological, psychological, and philosophical systems that affect how we feel (via hormones) and which we can affect via conscious thoughts and actions (meditation, music, art, diet, etc.)
Since everyone has chakras and since their effects are distinct, one from the other, using the Centers of Motivation to create your characters and take them on their journeys is the most natural way to create transformative media. It's what the Mystery Schools have always done: Hindu, Buddhist, ancient Mesopotamian, dynastic Egyptian, Persian, Sufi, Kabalistic, mystic Christianity, Druids, Masons, and the rest.
The Centers of Motivation are covered in my book INNER DRIVES and this article excerpts some of that for explanations and examples.
First, a quick overview of the Centers/chakras. Then, examples of media that takes a character through a Center Transformation.
The Centers of Motivation / Chakras
Sheer Survival, Life-or-Death, Groundedness
[The Terminator; the Joker in Dark Knight]
Sex, Fear, Money
[Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire; Colin Farrell's Ray in In Bruges]
Lower Solar Plexus [LSP]
Personal Power, Greed, Individuality, Exclusivity, Boundaries or the lack thereof
[Rocky Balboa in Rocky; both Frost and Nixon in Frost/Nixon; the "actors" in Tropic Thunder]
Aspirational Solar Plexus [ASP]
Self-improvement, Spiritual Yearning, Brotherhood, Inclusivity, Doing for Others
[Norma Rae in Norma Rae; Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire; Harvey Milk in Milk]
Unconditional Love for All Humanity, Ultimate Self-sacrifice with no personal gain
[William Wallace in Braveheart; Gandhi; Joan of Arc]
Conscious Creativity, Communication, Art, Science, Finance
[John Nash in A Beautiful Mind; Michael Berg in The Reader; Spock and Data]
Balance and Integration of all the Centers
[Frodo in Return of the King; General Patton in Patton; Neo at the end of the first Matrix]
Connection with higher realms
[The Dalai Lama in Kundun; the angels in Wings of Desire, before they become human]
Transformation Between Centers
Here are three different ways a character can arc between Centers of Motivation towards some sort of transformation.
1. STATIC ASPIRATION: to hold or perfect their CURRENT Center
2. UPWARD ASPIRATION: to attain a HIGHER Center
3. FALL & REDEMPTION: to regain a Center from which she was tempted or displaced
1. STATIC ASPIRATION
These stories will often be about sports, skills, or relationships. Many chick-flicks fall into this category, and if you're writing one, keep in mind that a transformative result would have your heroine widening her sphere of influence, and/or finding balance and stability instead of being all over the extremes of that Center.
An interesting static pattern is the Eternal Puer, or Peter Pan like in About a Boy and P. J. Hogan's Peter Pan. That story is about the difficulty of moving on from Lower Solar Plexus, whether it's into Sacral romance with Wendy, or taking on grown-up ASP familial responsibilities. In many ways it is a tragic story for Peter and a cautionary tale for us, and yet it is redolent with a very attractive nostalgia.
Some say that the lack of formal initiation ceremonies in American culture has contributed to our Peter Pan syndrome. However, in the Mystery Schools the most effective initiations are those which are self-initiated. These days that could be helped along by steeping one's self in the appropriate media.
2. UPWARD ASPIRATION
Many stories are about someone desperately wanting something they do not have, be it a person, a position, or possessions. In many instances that goal is a symbol for their INNER DRIVE to improve themselves, to reach a higher potential, to become all they can be. Meanwhile, it makes for good storytelling to watch them yearn and strive against the challenges and obstacles.
Norma Rae begins on the down side of the Sacral Center, simply struggling to get by. She is gradually drawn upward to the Aspirational Solar Plexus by the union organizer and a sense of what is correct. Defying convention, opinion, and the local law, she ultimately steps up and takes a stand which inspires others to rise as well.
The upward aspiration stories of Joan of Arc and Spartacus don't end well for the protagonists, but both the exquisitely gorgeous Dangerous Beauty and heart-warmingly funny In and Out do, and all offer inspiration for aspiration.
3. FALL AND (sometimes) REDEMPTION
In this paradigm your heroine is either tempted down or forced down into a lower Center by their own weaknesses (addictions, foibles, etc.), by other people (temptation, abduction, war, etc.), or by events (floods, depressions, comets, magic, etc.). The Greek tragedies and many of Shakespeare's tales fall into this category.
a. Their own weakness - Robert De Niro's slave hunter Captain Mendoza in The Mission plummets down from LSP into Sacral when he discovers his brother having an affair with his fiancee. From his Root Center he kills his brother. He's then given a chance to redeem himself by Jesuit priest Jeremy Irons. Mendoza battles his own nature to establish an Aspirational Solar Plexus focus, and even does a self-sacrificing Heart Center action at the end, thus redeeming himself.
b. Other People or Human Events - Gladiator shows how an Ajna Center General is torn from his position by others and thrust into Root Center. The story is then about how Russell Crowe's Maximus struggles courageously and cleverly back up to an Ajna Center, serving as an inspiration to others.
c. Force Majeure or Non-Human Events - The displaced young Chihiro in Spirited Away arcs from a childish, spoiled LSP Center to danger-threatened Root Center when her parents are turned into pigs in a magical kingdom. Through many trials and tribulations, learning courage and helping others, she makes her way up to ASP with a beneficent transforming effect on all within her environment.
How can you illustrate these transformations?
On the Static Arc the hero would gather more symbols of accomplishment: trophies, friends, etc.
On the upward Aspirational Arc the heroine would become more generous, more responsible, more productive, more effective, etc.
On the Fall and Redemption Arc you'd want to have one significant item or action the character did at the beginning that they couldn't do when in the lower Centers but were able to do once they had risen and reclaimed their position: In Spirited Away it's Chihiro rejoining her parents. In Lord of the Rings it's Frodo's return to the Shire. In Groundhog Day it's a return to the flow of normal time.
[In another article in this series, we'll explore the full run up the Centers of Motivation - the Path of Initiation.]
Make a list of the ten movies that most transformed you and how they did that. What did you die to? What were you re-born into?
Keep in mind the cathartic effect of tragedy and the uplifting effect of laughter and choose a half dozen stories not obviously spiritual or religious that you think could move someone's consciousness - even if temporarily - from Root Center to Sacral, from Sacral to LSP, from LSP to ASP, etc.
Transformative Media then does not have to be feel-good, upper chakras, wispy woo-woo. That's more likely to turn off the very people who are seeking higher wisdom with rational substance, who want practical information they can use in real life, and who want you to emotionally inspire them to use it.
Rest assured that you can consciously create a tragedy that warns us away from greed, corruption, cruelty, and crime. Oliver Stone's Salvador and Roger Spottiswoode's Under Fire both effectively accomplish that.
Lean towards comedy? Preston Sturges's Sullivan's Travels set in the Great Depression is well worth re-visiting for a look at a well-meaning filmmaker who set out to consciously create transformative media.
You can consciously create a love story that makes our hearts yearn for the highest and best we can be in order to both honor and be worthy of such love. Moulin Rouge gives us superb advice with, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is to love and be loved in return".[*]
No matter the style, genre, setting, or tone of your story, as long as you pull the hero (and we your audience) up out of the maze we typically live in and show us a higher perspective, as long as you show us some tools to get up there, and as long as you inspire us to stay there - you're creating Transformative Media. You are a Conscious Creator.
[* quote from Moulin Rouge © Bazmark Films]