When I began preparing this chapter, I encountered a creative block. On the one hand I wanted to write about the
daimonic and dramatherapy in an imaginative, inspiring way. On the other I wanted to present 0 something that was
concise and comprehensible, rooted in experience and theory. Nothing seemed easy to express and I couldn’t start
writing. Rather than being able to synthesise these different approaches, I became frustrated and stuck. Eventually, I
decided to draw on my experience as a dramatherapist. I decided to dramatise my block, as I might encourage a client
to do in therapy. I began to imagine it as an encounter between two archetypal characters that were not co-operating,
but involved in a fierce and exhaustive conflict. It seemed that a good way to start a paper about dramatising
daimonic characters would be to begin with those that were hidden in the paper itself.
I.I Introducing my Daimons
By introducing these characters I can personify the ideas behind this essay, and they can act as fictional guides. At
the same time, I can explore how dramatising inner conflict can help to transform a entrenched situation. So, rather
than begin with a definition of the daimonic, let me begin instead by introducing the characters that I imagined when I
explored my own block.
One appears as 0an old man. He gives the impression that he has listened to innumerable hours of other people
talking. There is an uncanny sense that he is coated in a thin film of the dust he sits in. There is something of the priest
about him, or a certain type of therapist; rigorous, methodological, detached, analytical. He has hard, bright eyes, and
is still and silent. Speaking seems an effort to him, as if innumerable wheels grind through his mind before language
can appear.0. The other seems 0like a young man, who is constantly on the move0. He looks around his surroundings
with an intense air of expectation, as if beauty and meaning could be extracted from anywhere at any moment. He
cultivates the0 demeanour of a Romantic poet—he is passionate, committed0, and his poems contain vivid and intense
emotions and images.
I will leave these two for a moment, where they are, in the same fictional space as each other but not talking; I
will treat them as advisers and use my writing as the middle ground between them. This provides a further link to the
practice of dramatherapy, with the role as dramatherapist as a mediator between different imaginal characters as well
as between the imagination and the self. In this case the writing acts as a way of creating dialogue between different
perspectives. The intention here is not psychotherapy—however, like psychotherapy, paying attention to both sides
within a conflict will allow new ideas and perspectives to emerge creatively.1
I.II. The Poetic Psyche.
In order to begin to think more about what theatre and the daimonic0 have in common we can begin in the place where
psychology has placed imagination—the psyche. The Oxford English Dictionary offers the following definitions of
psyche 1 |ˈsīkē| noun; the human soul, mind, or spirit
ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: via Latin from Greek psukhē, “breath, life, soul”.
The Poet tells me that the ancient symbol for 0psyche in 0Greece is Morpho Eugenia—the soul as a beautiful butterfly.
For a poet, images are more important than abstract concepts, for poetry connects images rather than defining terms.
Abstract terms such as psyche, soul, mind and spirit are hard to imagine and so less poetic than the image of a
butterfly. In order to understand the abstract, we need images. If we imagine psyche as a butterfly, we think about
butterflies poetically in order to know psyche better. So, butterflies seem fragile and colourful; they fly in eccentric
patterns to avoid capture. They begin their lives as caterpillars, blindly eating whatever is in front of them, and they
use this hunger as the energy to metamorphose. By imagining psyche as butterfly, we learn something about it; we
have a sense of the essential resistance of psyche to being captured. We can make sense of its hunger, and understand
that this hunger is fuel for a need to transform. Examining the image of the butterfly gives a deeper understanding of
The dictionary definitions of psyche have a poetry of their own, particularly the ones that refer to recognisable
images. Breath as an image for the psyche suggests something that is both within us, intimately contained in our
1 See for example the essay “The Transcendental Function” in Jung: 1971: p273-3000. Jung suggests that creatively mediating the
conflict between archetypal characters allows a new way of being to emerges in the psyche in the form of a new symbol. That the
psyche does this of its own accord, he decribes as “the transcendental function”.
bodies, and outside of us, in our immersion in the air we breathe. Here is an analogy with the daimon, as a being that
is somehow an “inner character” and yet is also external and archetypal, beyond the individual.
The psyche is the place where psychology has placed the daimon, either existentially as a semi-autonomous force
within it, or archetypally as the template for a kind of being within the collective unconscious. Psyche itself has a
relationship to the daimonic, as a realm which is not literal but imaginal, mediating between personal and communal
experiences, and yet with a reality of its own. Paying attention to images, as with the psyche as butterfly above, shows
a way of gaining a poetic understanding, and how staying with this process of imagining allows something to be
revealed. When images are allowed to speak in place of concepts, and fed by careful attention, this begins the move
towards the daimonic as a poetic middle place between self and world that has an existence of its own. Imagining the
psyche in a poetic way moves us closer to the daimonic, which is also based on entering the world of images, with its
all its butterfly elusiveness, beauty and unlikely seeming origins.
I.III. Seeking Daimons in the Psyche
The Poet suggests other images for psyche too, particularly the shadow. Here is a contrasting 0 image to the butterfly;
psyche as dark, of unknown depth and uncertain danger. 0Freud2 and 0Jung3 have both emphasised in different ways the
importance of the unconscious in the psyche, as the larger part of it. In so doing they have bound our understanding of
psyche to that which has depth, is unconscious and unknown. The unconscious is where Jung suggested one begins in
one’s quest to know psyche and the daimonic—in the shadow, which is frightening at first but capable of revealing
insight and wisdom to the conscious self.4 The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definition of daimon:
daemon 1 |ˈdēməәn| (also daimon)
- (in ancient Greek belief) a divinity or supernatural being of a nature between gods and humans.
- an inner or attendant spirit or inspiring force.
- archaic spelling of demon.
A daimon is both an inner inspiring force and an autonomous supernatural being. The refusal of the word to be
reduced to either the “inner” or the “outer” is precisely its strength, as it means that we have to be able to shift our own
perspective from one to the other whilst examining the same imaginative phenomena. The classical concept of the
daimonic as a bridge between material reality and the divine is a recurring current in the western mind.5 In recent
times, existential psychotherapist Rollo May has defined the daimonic as “any natural function that has the power to
take over the whole person”.6 He uses the concept as a way of recognising psychological material that is beyond the
individual and has a collective, yet highly personal nature—such as love or anger. Speaking about the daimonic allows
him to articulate a psychology that goes beyond the rational and individualistic mind, and describes that sense of being
“taken over” by passionate feeling or modes of being.
The archetypal perspective on the daimonic finds its modern voice in the life and work of Carl Jung. The nature
and content of his encounters with daimons permeated his work and his creation of an analytical psychology
concerned with archetypes of a collective unconscious. In fact Jung wrote towards the end of his life that the
daimonic could have been a synonym for the collective unconscious.7 Jung’s daimonic psychology has found its
champion in recent years in the writings of James Hillman, whose archetypal psychology strips away some of the
psychoanalytical concepts around Jungian psychology to emphasise its essential approach, namely psychology
as encounter with personified images within an imaginal realm. He suggests that Jung’s great contribution to self
knowledge is to re-animate the possibility of dialogue with daimons: “Know thyself, in Jung’s manner, means to
become familiar with, to open oneself to, that is, to know and discern, daimons.”8
2 “The ego is not even the master of its own house, but must content itself with scanty information about what is going in its
unconscious mind.” (Freud 1973: 326).
3 “Underneath ( the personal unconscious) is an absolute unconscious that has nothing to do with our personal experience.” (Jung
4 “The most accessible archetype, and the easiest to experience is the shadow, for its nature can in large measure be inferred from
the contents of the personal unconscious.” (Jung 1971: 145).
5 For example, see Richard Tarnas on Plato’s sense of the divine: “More than only literalistic metaphors, Plato’s gods defy strict
definition, in one dialogue serving as fanciful characters in a didactic fable, in another commanding an undoubted ontological
6 May: 123.
7 “I prefer the term ‘unconscious’ knowing that I might equally speak of ‘God’ or ‘daimon’ if I wished to express myself in mythic
language.” (Jung 1963: 369).
8 Hillman 1983: 55.
Hillman places the personification of thoughts, feelings and experiences at the heart of his archetypal
psychology9. He makes the claim that this is how we experience our imagination, encountering fictional characters,
in dreams, myth or literature. With this “move” we are also entering the realm of the actor, and of dramatherapy,10 for
embodying characters where the known self and the unknown other intersect within one body is exactly what the
actor does with himself each night he performs. To do this not for an audience, but for self-knowledge, and with the
healing intention that this entails, takes us towards the the heart of not just an archetypal psychology, but of
II.I Building a Theatre of the Daimon
What does the concept of theatre add to this emerging discussion of psyche and daimon? To 0 think about a theatre of
the psyche or a daimonic theatre, we need to have a sense of how to define theatre, for theatre is as elusive and
shapeshifting as psyche. Director Peter Brook opens up a useful area of discussion: “A man walks across an empty
space, watched by another man, and that is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.”11
This definition of theatre brings in a new component not present in our poetic imaginings of psyche—theatre as
essentially a relational act between a performer and an observer. Let us look closer at the character of this observer,
the single audience member, watching the performance. Her silence and apparent passivity have been of great interest
to those working in the theatre, especially those seeking theatre that provokes change. A theme running through the
avant garde in the last hundred years has been the involvement of the audience in the drama, engaging them within
the action rather than to requiring them to watch passively. Here is Judith Malina, a co-founder of the radical theatre
company Living Theatre writing in the 1950s: “We are the creators of an art in which every night hundreds of people
are ignored … then we wonder why the art staggers lamely behind its hope of being part of life.”12
This same sentiment is present in the work and writings of many of the most influential and original theatrical
practitioners of the twentieth century. It is there in the writing of Antonin Artaud, in his calls for theatre to become a
magical ritual that both reflects and creates psychic change in audience and performers.13 It is there in Jerzy
Grotowski’s work, in his casting of the audience into specific roles for the performance of his plays.14 It is certainly
there in Grotowski’s later development of this encounter-based theatre into what he called “paratheatrical” projects,
which through “disarming” participants of their habitual social defences sought to dissolve the entire theatrical frame
of audiences and actors. Grotowski wanted to engender a deep and genuine creative meeting between those present,15
for in paratheatre there would be no actors and no audience, but instead a creative communion that had theatre 0as its
source material. This desire to activate the audience continues today; for example, recent productions by
Punchdrunk16 and DreamThinkSpeak17 are representative of current developments in modern theatre which involve
the audience more deeply. They aim to immerse the audience within the fiction they are creating, casting them in a
role. In my opinion, these developments around animating audiences are at the cutting edge of theatre’s continuing
relevance today in a cultural landscape 0dominated by cinema.
However, I want to make a claim for the character of the silent watcher who does not act, and to mention the
benefits of being given permission to watch without acting. I want to make the claim that it is this that allows a point
of reflection to enter in both actor and witness. Making connections to my own practice as a dramatherapist, I have a
sense that sometimes I have been cast in the role of silent witness, unable to influence the action or the plot. Yet as a
therapist, actor and director I have a strong sense that this watching has a transformative effect on the action. I know
as an actor that my quality of attention changes my ability to act, deepens it. As a director, I seek to create a certain
level of immersion, of attention. As a therapist, the quality of my silence demonstrates that I am listening, and allows
9 Hillman 1975: 3.
10 “The unconscious produces dramas, poetic fictions, it is a theatre” (Hillman1983: 37).
12 Malina, in Drain (ed )0 : 275
13 For example in No More Masterpieces: “I suggest we ought to return through theatre to the idea of a physical knowledge of
images, a means of inducing trances, just as Chinese medicine knows the points of acupuncture over the whole extent of the human
anatomy, right down to its most sensitive functions ” (Artaud: 61).
14 “The core of the theatre is an encounter.” (Grotowski 1968: 55).
15 “It is not theatre that is indipensible but to cross the frontiers between you and me; to come forward to meet you, so that we do
not get lost in the crowd—or among words or declarations or among the beautifully precise thoughts.”(Grotowski 1997: 223).
16 Punchdrunk describe their theatre as “immersive theatre in which roaming audiences experience epic storytelling inside sensory
theatrical worlds”. I am referring to Punchdrunk’s productions0 “the Firebird Ball”, “Faust” and “The Masque of the Red Death”.
17 “Dreamthinkspeak creates site-responsive works that interweave live performance with film and installations to create
extraordinary journeys” (from http://www.dreamthinkspeak.com.) I am refering to their production of “Before I Sleep,” 2011.
the creation of a container for therapeutic work, and within that container, the personal drama 0 0 0 to unfold. Essential to
any drama is the cast that plays it out.
II.II Auditioning and Casting Daimonic Actors
During the preparation of a play, a group of actors work together to create the performance. The name given to a group
approach to theatre when a company seeks to 0work as a group rather than a collection of individuals, 0is the ensemble.
The presentation of any dramatic conflict is made possible by the ensemble working together behind the scenes to
rehearse and perfect the performance, trying out different approaches to perfect the presentation of the different
characters‘ dynamics onstage. Each actor must create his character not in isolation, but by establishing how his
character relates to the others. Every character is essential to the performance as a whole. However, even for an
individual within everyday life there may be a hidden0 ensemble at work. The psychologist John Rowan has written
about subpersonalities within the individual self. These are0 aspects of self or characters0 that play out relationship with
one another within each person. He suggests that many psychological theories can be understood as different
descriptions of these subpersonalities,18 which may often be in conflict with each other. 0 T0heatre allows its audiences
to view these conflicts, the conflicts between and within people, as they witness them. Hillman quotes Jung to clarify
this connection between theatre and the self:
“If the observer understands that his own drama is being played out on the stage, he cannot remain indifferent to the
Hillman suggests that a connection is made between the one watching and the one acting that can activate
something vital in the watcher, and this gives us a sense of how a daimonic theatre can work. It involves the observer
in a personal way, touching on his own deep identity, yet also allowing distance0 from it. It gives access to0 0a collective
pool of images. Dramatherapy works with a paradox within the creative process. Seeing characters come to life
onstage can create a deep empathic connection in an audience as they identify with certain characters or situations. Yet
dramatising internal conflicts also creates distance for the watcher from her psychological material.0 Both these
factors are crucial to dramatherapy 20. Dramatic narratives do not reflect the literal concerns of an audience’s life, but
mirror it using images that engage 0or distance 0them in a continual flow. Depth psychologist Mary Watkins writes of a
crucial understanding of the image, that it contains not just what is known but what is not yet known to its author in
the same way that the daimon is both part of the observer yet separate from it.21 Our images can allow us to be more
deeply involved and more objective about our lives at the same time, and to be more aware of what is on the cusp of
our understanding. However, I want to advocate the value of recognising the ensemble in the psyche for another
reason: the character that we most need is likely to be that character that we least wish to meet. The depressed old
man, the arrogant poet, the helpless child, the sadistic monster, the stressed out organiser who just won’t let go. An
ensemble approach to the psyche means these characters are held within the context of the plot, and this allows them
to be recognised within ourselves. Theatre requires these characters to act, to interact, to play out tragedy, comedy,
romance or epic adventure. Marginalised fictional characters have a place within the daimonic ensemble, they can
only be banished as far as the wings, or the green room. In the theatre daimons find their place, and no longer have to
assert themselves on the personal psyche with such uncomfortable force. Within dramatherapy, abstract emotions and
repressed forces can be first personified, then auditioned and cast into roles for the patient’s personal drama to unfold.
III.I. Entering the Narrative—a Vignette
Dramatherapy is the application of theatre with an intention to heal; the drama becomes the therapy, through
relationship with a qualified dramatherapist. As drama is such a varied discipline in its training and intention that
dramatherapists need a wide range of tools at their disposal. However, they are also bound by a code of ethics, which
keeps the work safe by including a commitment to the well-being of their patient, observation of patient/therapist
boundaries and ongoing clinical supervision. As drama is a creative discipline, the work involves a relationship on
two fronts—one with the therapist and another with the imagination and its dramatic images. I am not proposing the
daimonic as a way of explaining the psyche, emotional conflict or creative images to patients in therapy, for this may
be counter-therapeutic or even unethical. Rather, I want to look at the daimon as a therapist, as a way of understanding
the dramatic images of others and their relationship to inner conflicts. I want describe a way of understanding others
that both refers to their personal world and to a shared imaginal world at the same time. The vignette that follows is
from my dramatherapy work, and took place on a medium-secure psychiatric intensive care unit (a PICU). It is a busy,
18 “My own definition of a subpersonality is a semi-permenant and semi-autonomous region of the personality capable of acting as
a person.” (Rowan: 8).
19 Jung in Hillman 1983: 38.
20 See Jones: 83: “The tension between (dramatherapeutic empathy and distancing) can create the dynamic of change that is
essential to the work being undertaken.”
21 Watkins: 64.
chaotic place with ten beds. The doors are locked, and medication is compulsory. There are restrictions on what is
allowed onto the ward in terms of smashable objects, for patients admitted here are often detained under sections of
the mental health act. For this reason, I only present only a small vignette, in order to preserve the anonymity of the
patient, and have changed the names. I have deliberately not mentioned any identifying features of patients such as
age, appearance or ethnicity.
The dramatherapy group is voluntary. However, I am required to meet new patients all the time, and for them I am
a representative of a team that has acted against their expressed wishes, often including their wish 0 to be there. To help
counteract this I developed ways of using drama skills to create a better engagement on the first meeting.
III.II. A Story of Cheeseplants and Marijuana
Nick was admitted onto the ward following a marijuana-induced psychosis; he smoked a very large quantity of
marijuana over a period of days in which he did not sleep. My first awareness of him was on the ward patio—he was
acting wildly, alternating between aggressive and placatory language, sometimes to staff and patients, sometimes to
no-one (apparently) at all. He was moving very energetically, doing forward rolls and leaps, looking around
constantly to check if anyone was creeping up on him. By giving him 0relaxed attention and showing interest in him, I
was able to engage in conversation with him. He came to the weekly dramatherapy group the following 0session.
The report from the nurses was that Nick’s behaviour had continued to be bizarre. He demanded marijuana from
them, sometimes aggressively, and0 0believed that the cheeseplants in the art therapy room were marijuana. He gave the
cheeeplants0 food, fed them milk, and was jealously protective of them. The art room was soon locked because of0
aggressive defence of0 the plants and because of the smell. He thought that nurses were people from his earlier life. His
communication was hard to follow, and he alternated quickly between being compliant and angry. He wasn’t easy to
comprehend, partly because English was not his first language, but also because what he wanted to say revolved
around a group of people he felt were important, but it was hard to establish who they were or why they were
After our initial meetings, Nick came to dramatherapy. During one session, I had some musical instruments laid
out. Nick took one and began to beat out a rhythm, whilst a nurse and I supported his rhythm by copying and
following it. After playing this together for a while, Nick stopped. He explained that he had been playing a rhythm of
his local football team, in the country where he came from. He said that when he was younger, he had been involved
in organised violence at football games, and that this had only stopped when he had discovered marijuana and begun
to smoke it. From this point I supported him in making a small piece of theatre, and helped him to write a short script.
In it, he conceptualised two characters which he named “Marijuana” and “Fighter.” Fighter was hyper aggressive, and
began the piece of theatre by threatening Marijuana with physical violence. Their conflict was the focus of what
happened in the play. Marijuana completely ignored Fighter, casually dismissing him and continuing to smoke despite
the intensely violent threats. Nick was able to inhabit both roles with great expression. At the end of the enactment I
helped him to “de-role”, to consciously take off the roles he had been playing and to return to his habitual self, Nick.
Nick was able to characterise and communicate different aspects of himself through this small piece of
dramatherapy. In the enactment, although Fighter had more physical force, it was Marijuana who had the upper hand
in terms of status, minimising Fighter‘s threat by casually ignoring it. It was noteworthy that Nick came onto the ward
after smoking excessive amounts of marijuana, and that he insisted to staff that he needed more and more marijuana—
indeed it was the chief preoccupation of his illness.
After watching the interplay between the two characters, I felt that Nick was suppressing the Fighter part of
himself by smoking marijuana. I wondered if he had a side to himself which was relaxed and not aggressive to the
point of not caring about anything, and whether he identified this not as a part of himself, but as only a side effect of
the herb marijuana. If so, he could ignore the other side of himself that was violent, antisocial and dangerous and feel
himself to be free of these traits that both repelled and attracted him only when he smoked marijuana. Perhaps he
couldn’t identify with the attributes that Marijuana as a character had without smoking marijuana the substance, and
feeling its effects. At the same time, he couldn’t allow himself to be Fighter anymore, because that felt dangerous and
unpredictable. Without a strong sense of either character, both of which had featured so strongly in his life, he couldn’t
have a very clear sense of how to behave at all. Marijuana (the character) largely ignored problems and had a nihilistic
dysfunctionality of his own. Fighter was highly strung and on a trigger, ready to explode. If these two aspects of
himself were unavailable, either by being too dangerous like Fighter or by being present only if inhaled literally like
Marijuana, then what identity did Nick have? The therapeutic theatre cast new light on Nick’s case and helped make
sense of his actions prior to admission and his behaviour in admission. It seemed that his marijuana-induced
psychosis was an attempt to deal with immense internal (intra-psychic) tension. His psychotic fixation on the
cheeseplants as marijuana and his attempts to tend to them and feed them milk and food seemed like an attempt to
tend for the aspect of Marijuana in himself. Marijuana was that aspect of himself that he needed to be in order not feel
himself to be a violent psychopath, as he imagined Fighter to be. What was beginning to emerge from his piece of
theatre was that both characters needed something from each other that they did not have on their own—Marijuana
needed the strength and fighting spirit to prevent “being relaxed” turning into a world denying nihilism, whereas
Fighter badly needed Marijuna’s0 more relaxed and calm attitude. What was clear from the performance was the
extreme nature of their conflict at this point, for Marijuana cruelly dismissed Fighter and Fighter only wanted to
destroy Marijuana through aggression. They could barely be in the same scene together. Interestingly, Marijuna
seemed to have more power in the scene than the violent Fighter character.
IV. Reviewing the Play
How does this vignette relate to a daimonic theatre and dramatherapy? Nick’s creations have clear connections to
him and helped him make links back into his past to make sense of the present. This was something that was lacking
for him on admission. Dramatherapists work with the relationship to the inner realm, with characters as “aspects of the
psyche,” dramatising them and then relating them back to the individual. We might think of this in terms of “dramatic
projection”. Dramatic images are projected outwards from the individual’s psyche onto the screen of the theatre, to
allow them to be seen and processed and finally owned as part of the self. Dramatherapist Phil Jones refers to this
“life-role” bridge as a core process in dramatherapy. I think this is clear in the way that Nick’s characters relate to
actual experiences in his life of violent hooligan and marijuana smoker—the link between fictional characters and
their authors is essential in order to gain a good idea about how creative images relate deeply to the individual that
creates them. However, it is equally clear that Nick was never “really” either character. Although they point to parts of
him, they are also fictional creations that do not finally define or express “who he is.” In this way, they are distanced
and do not have to carry the baggage of being “a part” or “aspect” of his personality. The usefulness of the daimonic at
this point is that it offers is a way of mediating a “middle realm” between the experiencing self and the unknowable
other, for the daimonic impossibly and paradoxically occupies both these positions at once as a metaphor. We can trace
an understanding of these images as personal to Nick, but the daimonic also requires that we reverse our perspective
and see Nick as within these images, that they are outside of him and mediating his interpersonal relationships, his
temporarily fractured fantasies of himself and the world. This perspective might belong principally to the therapist,
when the patient is overwhelmed and unable to make any sense of his own experiences.
My sense of Nick’s dramatherapy piece was that its meaning was elusive for him, but that the experience allowed
him to begin to engage with a process of knowing the multiple dimensions of himself. It suggests the emergence of a
desire to change, that may allow a more stable, everyday self to become established which is 0 neither lost in marijuanaaided
oblivion nor keyed up ready to attack anyone who comes close.
V.I. The Therapist as Audience, the Audience as Daimonic
It is its use of metaphor that allows dramatherapy to provide therapy. Moving between different roles in the
psyche can mediate and contain destructive tendencies, through expressing them metaphorically rather than
literally. Marijuana and Fighter were allowed to have space within a creative frame, and holding on to a sense of
an ensemble within a theatre of the psyche allowed Fighter to emerge from the wings and be seen consciously, his
demands heard, albeit briefly.
If a person explores two aspects of himself, then there will be at least three archetypal characters present. The first
two will be the more vibrant aspects of self, often in conflict, and the third will be the audience. The “silent watcher”,
almost invisible, is crucially important within therapy, as a mediating point and the origin of reflection on the conflict
being witnessed. Often the therapist models this role, as I did, simply by watching the interplay between Marijuana
and Fighter and being interested in it. The very act of creating a piece of theatre means a person must take on many
roles, even outside the action, and this in itself is therapeutic, as other dramatherapists working in similar contexts
have noticed: “To be actor, critic, director within the same corporeal and chronological time sequence allows the
destructive act to be contained and reflected on within the same creative process”.22 To this I would add that Nick was
able to glimpse the conflicts that he experienced and reflect on them, for he was not only actor-critic-director, but also
audience and witness to his own daimonic theatre.
0 Daimonic Breath
In theatre, the images and dramatic action take place within the perceptions of the audience as well as within the
auditorium. The audience and actors come together to form a container for the action of the play. The drama takes
place both within the audience and onstage, which brings us back to the poet’s image of the psyche as breath. Breath
enters the intimate spaces of our body and is also the element that surrounds it. Patrick Harpur has suggested that
the great innovation of depth psychology was to re-place experiences, places and characters previously considered to
be outside of the individual—the daimons, gods, monsters, witches, holy children—within the individual.23 The
benefit of this is that it has re-invested the creative imagination (what I am referring to as the daimonic) with meaning
and purpose, for ancient stories find new life within the personal. Seen in this way, Nick’s characters, whilst
embodying himself and his problems, also relate to archetypal characters, to daimons. “Fighter” can easily be a kin to
the whole pantheon of warrior archetypes, known as Thor, Ares, and Mars in the Greek, Roman and Norse traditions.
Similarly, “Marijuana” who laughs mockingly at the crass violence, can be seen as a Loki, Hermes or Mercury. But
22 Doktor, Holloway & Seebohm: 28 (electronic copy from author).
23 “What we call the unconscious was to the Greeks, the Otherworld.” (Harpur: 45).
although it is interesting to consider correspondences between mythical characters and personal archetypes, the images
also exist on their own without supporting mythical traditions. To relate them back to gods as if mythical tradition is
the only way to know archetypes can do violence to the personal way in which they actually appear. Often, when
clothed in this personal way, the daimons have greater numinous power.
Theatre is a great social medium, one that requires that we are all gathered together, in the same place at the same
time, connected by the images that we watch or enact. The characters that we see at the theatre are at once parts of the
individuals watching and yet also independent of them, both fragments of the whole and wholes containing further
fragments, meeting and forming plots in stories that repeat and never end. As much as they are aspects of one self,
each individual stands amongst them, and navigates the world through the imaginative possibilities within which they
personify each action, mood or situation. It is at this point that I would like to return to my own daimons, who have
been guiding this essay. I would like to give them the stage, to show a little daimonic theatre of my own. In the
introduction I mentioned my own creative block which led to imagining an old man, covered in dust, and a young
poet full of inspired creative energy. Like Marijuana and Fighter these two could be related to archetypal characters—
Senex and Puer, or Chronos and Zeus. However, as I think that making these connections too closely abstracts them
too much, and so weakens their power in this unique situation, I would prefer to imagine them as they are, on their
own terms, an old man who seems to be covered in dust, in conversation with a provocative young poet.
VI. The Old Man and the Poet
The Old man and the Poet are standing on the stage of a theatre. It is a proscenium arch theatre,
Regency in style, gold plaster grape vines decorating cracked scarlet balconies. The two stand on
a bare, square stage, facing an empty auditorium – empty seats in the stalls and in the steeply
raked circle tier, no one seated in the royal box or “the gods24”. The Old Man is upstage and has
his back to the Poet.
Poet : So—what do you think of the essay? Does it go far enough? Does it help bring imagination back into the
Old Man: (turns slowly to face him): It is not important. It does not matter. Do you think you are the first to think in
this way or that others have not said it better? Focus on your own material rather than on these inflated concepts.
Poet: (angrily): What do you mean! The soul of the world is not an inflated concept! It 0 is what gives height, depth,
life. We are not occasionally imagining things within ourselves! We are imagination, the WORLD is imagination and
we are a pool of lucid images that refract and reflect like a fiery jewels. It is not inflated to seek the soul of the world
—it is your focus on the individual that is egotistical! Trapped inside your own skin, seeking “objectivity” in other
peoples writing … who cares?
Old Man ( stares coldly at him) :If you do not recognise other people’s ideas you will lose your own. If you focus on
the general you lose the particular. Tie your ideas in with others. Moderate your own ideas carefully to present the
facts as best you can, do it well, or do not bother at all.
Poet : If I was to be as methodical as you I would never do anything! I don’t want to write moderately, I want to write
with passion and originality, you dried up old man!
Old Man : I was like you once. Full of fire. Fire burns out quickly. I admire your passion. I remember it. But your fire
is also hot air. It will evaporate quickly as you strive to convert others to your ideas, persuade them of your cause. You
are like a missionary for the imagination! Like a Catholic missionary. A fundamentalist. I will tell you what matters,
the only thing. Appreciating your place in the present moment.
Poet : (moving forward) Then we are agreed! the moment Now filled with all the potential of the cosmos, brimming
with birdsong and stars …
Old man: The birds are not singing. The stars are not out. We need to notice not just for spark but the glass that holds
it. And the silent watcher that witnesses the flame. We are standing here on this empty stage, in this empty theatre.
There is no one listening even amongst the gods tonight…(gestures to the empty seats high up) But someone has been
listening, and perhaps that is enough for this to transform our petty argument into something of value… 0
(lights fade as he slowly 0turns to face the Poet….)
24 “the gods” is a traditional name for the highest, often cheapest seats in the theatre.
VII. Curtain Call: Towards a Daimonic Theatre
Let me now end my contribution by briefly recapturing its themes. Firstly, in writing it, I became aware of a
tension in me between two characters, that I have characterised as the Old Man and the Poet. The Poet’s imaginal
method uses images as metaphors for the creatively expressing psyche, whereas the Old Man provides an essential
practicality and grounding for understanding these images, by relating them to other peoples’ ideas and personal
experiences. In this way, the insights of each can be related, through the theatrical medium.
An advantage of a theatrical approach to the psyche’s native poetry is that it is a relational art form, just as the
psyche itself is relational. The concept of the daimonic is also relational as it relates “inner” to “outer” and “personal”
to “collective” as well as “human” to “divine”. It is an idea that allows us to have a sense that, like breath, what is
within us also contains that which contains us. When we become more aware of imaginal dialogues, we become aware
of conflicts that are at once highly personal and archetypal. These conflicts can help us make sense of the multiplicity
of ourselves and others.
Once we meet these daimons, we must establish a relationship with them, for the characters that we most need are
often the ones we most neglect. Conflicts in imaginal dialogues reflect the conflicts both within ourselves and with
others and offer creative possibilities for transformation and discovery. Yet the daimonic is also0 the drama that we
ourselves are within, the stage that we act on unknowingly in our everyday lives. Creating theatre gives us a “magic
box” that allow0 characters to come into the light, for conflict to be recognised, embodied and given a framework. This
brings with it the possibility of acceptance and so the opportunity for transformation.
Dramatherapy can facilitate a personal theatre, it allows the hidden daimons that play out in our lives to be known,
respected and given their rightful place in the theatre of the psyche. By doing this, it opens up all that is not personal
in the imagination—the daimonic. “The idea that the daimons who inhabit myths also invented them is an outstanding
metaphor for the way myths generate themself out of imagination”,25 says Harpur. Theatre lives where the daimons
live, at the crucial intersection between self and world.
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