By Elmore Cisco James, Jr.
A great theater director once advised me on how best a young actor should maneuver himself if he wanted to get ahead in the theater. He said, “The most important thing is to be in the room when something is about to happen—and to be ready when it does. You have to be in the room.”
His words resonated with what I remembered, as a boy, were my reasons for wanting to be in the theater in the first place.
From the earliest time, I remember wanting to be there—in the room—whenever adults were discussing some topic of great import. I wanted to be there—right in the middle of the conversation. But of course, I was too young and was always told to go outside and play.
However, as a teenager the desire lingered and I decided that being in the room would be how I’d spend my life. I thought, what better way to do that than by becoming a stage actor. An actor is one who gets to act out the human condition in front of the people to whom it matters most—those who come to be entertained by, and in some way, to see their story being lived out through art.
I wanted to be articulate and creatively expressive. I wanted to know how to express my innermost thoughts and passions—and I wanted to do so openly and publicly. I also had a huge fascination for everything having to do with the cosmos. I loved going to the old Hayden Planetarium and sitting there in the dark and losing myself as I gazed up at the universe of light projected on the lofty domed ceiling high above my head. I wanted to know more, ask bigger questions. I wanted to talk about things beyond the everyday mundane. I wanted to talk grand ideas.
The theater taught me how. It taught me how to use my creative being to express, not only the ideas of great authors but also ideas of my own imaginative conceiving, as well. I was later to discover however, that the theater wasn’t the only venue in which to have that kind of thrilling conversation…
Years later at the age of twenty-two, I suffered from a terrible broken heart. I had fallen deeply in love for the first time and, being inexperienced in the ways of love, had no means by which to cope when it all came crashing down. I found myself suddenly rejected by the very person whom I then considered the love of my life. The relationship’s end came as cruelly and suddenly as it spectacularly began—leaving me destroyed—emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. I was imprisoned by constant guilt, shame, anger and grief.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the writer/poetHerbert Mason describes brilliantly what it was like for Gilgamesh when he lost the one person he ever loved, to death. Mason wrote
All that is left to one who grieves
No change of heart or spiritual
Conversion, for the heart has changed
And the soul has been converted
To a thing that sees
How much it costs to lose a friend it loved.
It has grown past conversion to a world
Few enter without tasting loss,
In which one spends a long time waiting
For something to move one to proceed.
It is that inner atmosphere that has
An unfamiliar gravity, or none at all,
Where words are flung out in the air but stay
Motionless without an answer,
Hovering about one’s lips
Or arguing back to haunt
The memory with what one failed to say,
Until one learns acceptance of the silence
Amidst the new debris
Or turns again to grief
As the only source of privacy,
Alone with someone loved.
It could go on for years,
And has, for centuries,
For being human holds a special grief
Of privacy within the universe
That yearns and waits to be retouched
By someone who can take away
The memory of death.
In my version of the story my beloved didn’t die—I did—and there was no one who could take away the memory of my spiritual death. I was desolate with grief and ashamed for having committed the offense of loving—was plagued by the pain of its sudden withdrawal. My days were lonely, confused and filled with dread; my nights lonely, confused, empty of peace.
One day, I was walking down the street when I happened upon a bookstore called, The Tree of Life. I went in mainly to seek relief from the sweltering humidity of the New York City summer streets.
I entered into a cool, dimly lit room to the sweet aroma of incense. No one else was in the bookstore except the man behind the counter and me. I began looking through the books on the shelves. Their titles fascinated me.
He spoke out to me.
“What are you looking for?”
I told the man behind the counter I didn’t know. He immediately began suggesting books he thought I might find of interest. I picked them up, skimmed through them and decided on two, by the same author—U.S. Andersen—The Secret of Secrets and Three Magic Words.
I bought them. Until then, I’d known nothing about metaphysical thought. My exposure to any kind of higher thought was limited to Shakespeare and the Bible. Venturing into the realm of metaphysical spiritual thought saved my life. Intense suffering set me on a journey to seek an end to suffering and to discover who it is I truly am. It has since become my desire to help others do likewise, thus, What You Didn’t Know You Already Knew: A Course in Genius was created.
“The most important thing is to be in the room.” The Course places you there—in the room of enlightened universal ideas. Something will definitely happen. Be ready.
Know the present from the past; speak the present from the future.
Creator, A Course in Genius
What You Didn’t Know You Already Knew
Elmore Cisco James, Jr. is from New York City and is a published writer and poet. He is also a theatrical stage director, Broadway performer, international opera singer and teacher of theatre arts, who later became the creator of A Course in Genius: What You Didn't Know You Already Knew. He was trained at the Juilliard School, SUNY Purchase and at the School of Performing Arts, on which the classic film Fame was based.
In 2000, after many years of independent metaphysical research, Elmore became a student of the Transformational Study of Universal Law, Natural Science, and Living Philosophy offered by the University of Science and Philosophy, founded by Walter Russell, the great twentieth-century innovator and polymath.
As a master teacher, Elmore has lectured, conducted seminars and has been a guest professor at (among other places), the Teachers College at Columbia University, American University, NYU, SUNY Purchase, Stephens College, Fordham University, Temple University and at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He has also taught and lectured on A Course in Genius at the Glasgow Academy in Glasgow, Scotland and at Bernadotte Skolan (the Bernadotte School) in Stockholm, Sweden.