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Tibetan Mystery Play (part 4)

"And now follows the most dramatic and significant part of the sacred dances {forming

 the highlight of the second day of the mystery-play of the Old Schools): the Lord of

Death, wearing the dark blue mask of a three-eyed, skull-drowned bull of frightful size and appearance - a blood-filled skull-bowl  in one hand and swinging a broad-bladed sword in the other - dances with ever-quickening steps and increasing ferocity around the prostrate human figure in the centre of the courtyard, until he whirls around at such speed that his features become a mere blur and his sword a bundle of flashes.  The drums accelerate their rhythm to a crescendo of thunder - and at the moment the sword strikes the effigy, dismembers it, and scatters the parts in all directions.  Now a wild scramble ensues, in which the host of demons pick up the scattered parts of the effigy and, after having devoured some morsels of it, throw the remainder into the air and among the spectators, who likewise take part in the sacrificial feast.

It is difficult to give an idea of the realistic and at the same time fantastic effect of this intermingling of the natural and the supernatural.  The masks - over-life-sized and ex-

presssively stylized in form and colour - seem to be animated in the most uncanny way and more real than the human beings who wear them or the spectators who have com-

pletely surrendered themselves to the spirit of the play.  All of them participate in an experience that transcends their present state of existence and seems to lift them be-yond the frontiers of death: where the gates of all the worlds and forms of rebirth are opened, and where at the same time the path that leads beyond them appears before the inner eye or is felt as an upsurge of longing towards the ultimate aim of liberation and enlightenment.

Now performers and spectators are welded into one and have both become active par-ticipants in a magic rite, which initiates them into one of the most ancient mysteries which is the origin of all religious life and the beginning of the awakening of man."

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