Avatar No. 19
Boston. Feb. 16, 1968

Several months ago Mel saw a program on a weekly T.V. show called "What's Happening Mr. Silver." The show seemed to be a very honest attempt to bring some life to television but was badly in need of direction. Mel wrote a letter and said that if Mr. Silver really wanted to find out what was happening, he should visit the hill.
Mr. Silver came to the hill and he turned out to be David, an Aries. And the two Aries talked.
The following day, David returned to film an interview with Mel. The results will appear on the Silver show on Channel 2 at 10:30 P.M. on February 28 and March 3, but it will be cut to less than a half hour. The actual interview lasted over an hour. Twenty people crowded into a small kitchen, with much T.V. equipment, to watch two people struggle, never against each other, but together, one to find within himself the questions, the other to reach within himself to give the answers.
So watch a struggle with questions and answers and some very long pauses and find out "What's happening."


DDo you think Baba is silently making the statement that you can't talk in words?
MIf he is he's a fool, that's all.
DWhy? Maybe he sees words as a limitation, because one necessarily has to reduce the complexity of what he's saying by the very structure of the language, the laws that you have to abide by in the language.
MIt didn't limit Shakespeare.
MI mean he learned to USE words, that's all.
DDo you consider your writing in the AVATAR a high level of communication?
MIt's the best I can do right now. Do you? Some people feel I'm communicating an awful lot.
DI don't really know, because there's the question of metaphor and the degree of metaphorical usage. They're very important, because, for instance, in your book, "Autobiography of a World Saviour," you talk of the other planet, a place where there is a perfect environment, although that's my interpretation. But I use that as a metaphor, not literally. As a metaphor it works, but other than that I would find it difficult to believe.
MDid you read the whole book?
DNo, I haven't had time.
MIf you had, you'd understand.
DHow right am I in assuming that you chose it consciously as a metaphor for something else?
MIt was the best way I could find to say it at the time.
DAnother thing, what do you think of the Mahareshi or transcendental meditation?
MI'm not involved in it.
DOkay, but what do you think of it?
MAre you involved in it?
DYes, to a certain extent.
MHow does it feel?
DIt's a possibility. It's logical. It's a metaphor, too. if one man says that he is God, this is also a metaphor.
MWhat ISN'T a metaphor? So far everything's been a metaphor. What's the absolute truth?
DWell, one has to go back to semantics, really. A word is only how it's commonly used. God as a word means a divine, controlling power.
MTo some people.
DWhat does it mean to you?
MIt doesn't mean anything to me except in relationship to what it means to you. Alone I never even think about the word. I use the word sometimes to communicate something.
DIf you, as Mel Lyman, say you are God.....
M(interrupting) At the time I say it I probably am.
DIs this also a strategic tactic to arouse other people?
MIt could be used that way, sure.
DWhen you've said you're God in the AVATAR, what are the different ways in which this has affected people?
MAlot of people want to tell me that they're God too. I get alot of letters saying well if you're God I'm gonna' be God too, man. That's all right. I arouse SOMETHING. At least somebody wanted to be part of what I said I was part of, or wanted to be what I said I was. It's very strong.
DIf people resented the fact, and people do, of one individual calling himself God and using that word, why do you think they resent it?
M'Cause they haven't the courage to call themselves that and then live UP to it. That's the hard part.
DWhat's the initial step?
DWhy birth?
M'Cause it's first.
DYou mean that existence.....
M (interrupting) Boy, you sure got a mind. Whew, how can you STAND it?
DWell, I'm trying to, I'm trying to think. Um...
M(interrupting) I mean if you get all these things explained to yourselves, do you feel any better?
DI feel better in understanding your vocabulary, which is useful to me. If I don't understand the very words you use, then....
M(interrupting) Don't you know that I would explain it to every single person in an absolutely different way?
DYes. Why do people lose their sense of divinity?
MAlot of people don't even have it.
DThey don't have a divinity or they don't have a SENSE of divinity?
MWell, they've got a RIGHT to it.
DWhy don't they HAVE it?
MThey don't feel it. Maybe they want something else, like money or something. As soon as you want something just for yourself you've sacrificed your right to divinity.
DDivinity then, by its very nature, is not something you own?
MIt's something that owns YOU.
DUh huh. How about Jesus Christ? How does he fit into this? Was he always divine from birth? In other words, did he always know?
MI'm sure he had alot of hard experiences and from those he came to know.
DWhy was he crucified?
MThat was probably his hardest one.
DIs there any necessity for a Christ to be crucified?
MThere is a necessity for a MAN to be crucified.
DHave you been crucified?
M(emphatically) SURE. Every time I'm misunderstood, which is all the time.
DSo then if everyone else is misunderstanding you, this is a state of tension, it's not a right thing. The only right thing is total understanding between all the people in the world.
MIt's something that has to be worked out. That's what LIVING'S all about.
DCan one be alone, without other people, and be aware? Does he HAVE to have people, too?
MHe's got to have people.
DDoes he have to have all people or just some people?
MThat depends on how big he is.
DWhat about you?
MI'll have all people. I want to reach all people, sure, all people are part of me. I want to COMMUNICATE with all the parts of me, right down to my toes.
DThe people who simply disagree with you or misunderstand you, are they a necessary part too?
DWhy is that?
MOtherwise I wouldn't be here. All I DO is overcome resistance, that's all I DO. That's what I'm all about. If there was no resistance, I wouldn't be here.
DHow many people do you think you have reached this perfect communication with?
MAll my life at different times I've had perfect communications with people. I mean when I can find myself in them, then we're the same thing, you see, we have perfect communication. When that spirit that motivates me brings out that spirit that motivates them, it's the same spirit, we're the same thing, you see. There's no misunderstanding. It's like when two lovers look each other in the eye and they SEE that. You know, they see that look and there's nothing separating them, they're the same thing at that time. At that moment they have perfect communication. Maybe they're fighting the next day, but if they are, they're only fighting to get BACK to that perfect communication.
DDo you think that all the trappings of contemporary society, like marriage and morality, are bad because they constantly atrophy this potential communication?
MI don't think they're BAD because of that. Everything ages, everything atrophies. That's why babies are born, because the parents get stiff. There's nothing else happening with them anymore, they're not growing, so they have babies.
DDon't people grow all the time? Do they necessarily decay just because they physically decay?
MNo, but they necessarily physically decay because they stop growing.
DAnd this is a fact, huh, this isn't something one can do anything about?
MOh, you should do something about it if you can.
DAnd this involves mind?
MYeah, and it involves alot MORE than that. It involves really wanting to be alive, in spite of everything.
DIn connection with this wanting to be alive, do you think that primitive man, who only had his senses, his body and his immediate environment, and his land, do you think he was nearer to happiness than we are?
MDo you think dogs and cats are happy?
DI think dogs are all dogness and cats are all catness and nothing else. I'm not sure that humans are all HUMANness, and that's why I asked the question. It seems to me more likely that the primitive human is nearer to being human than we are. Do you agree?
MI don't quite get the question, but I don't think you're right.
DWell, for instance, primitive man enjoyed his food, and we don't.
MDogs and cats enjoy their food too, but not as much as I do, because I KNOW I'm enjoying my food at the same time I'm enjoying it, that's the difference.
DDo you really think we know alot more about enjoyment than primitive man?
MMaybe YOU don't. I mean I sit down before my food, and I take my time, and I really enjoy it, I look at the colors, I smell it, it's a pleasure, you see. It's not just gobble it all down because it tastes good, you know, he just threw it down to fill his hunger and rushed out to kill another bull.
DI don't agree. I think he relished it. He had TIME to relish it.
MI hope you're right, but I doubt it.
DAre dogs and cats divine?
MThe same spirit that motivates me, makes me alive, is the same spirit that makes my cat alive. But I know it, and a cat doesn't. That's quite a difference. I can ENJOY that fact, that understanding, that knowledge, and a cat, it doesn't affect him at all, he just goes on about his business. He hasn't evolved a mind.
DHaving this spirit, when it comes to making decisions, how much doubt is there generally in your life, when you decide to do something or not do it?
MWell, when I finally make the decision, there's no doubt at all.
DBut there's a process, obviously.
MOh yeah. But not always. Many decisions are spontaneous. I just know, I feel it. I know I'm right. I don't have to think about it. And at other times I may have to think about how I did it before and how that turned out and so on.
DWhen you look back over the last ten years, do you see a definite progress in your life?
MSure. I don't fight what I know I have to do anymore.
DHow long has this state of being aware of this spirit been?
MI've been becoming more and more aware of it all my life. I don't question it anymore, that's the difference, now I just do what I know I have to do.
DYou say in your book that there's always a God because there's always one step that we haven't gone, can you define that a bit?
MYou say "define" it, and that's the DEFINITION.
DWhat I want to know really is where are you at now? What is the next step?
MTelevision, films, more communication.
DIs the aim to communicate to everyone?
MSure, ultimately.
DWhat are you doing now to do this? AVATAR?
DAnd then what? Television?
M(emphatically) I MEAN TELEVISION REALLY TURNS ME ON. (laughter)
DSay you had a weekly television show, how do you think you'd go about communicating, do you know?
MIt would be difficult right now, I mean look what YOU'RE up against. It would be that much more difficult for me, 'cause I'd want to do alot wilder things than YOU'RE doing.
DLike what?
MLike just plain speak the truth, which is the wildest thing you can do.
DDo you think anybody involved in the mass media communications generally, is even coming near to this?
MEvery now and then I see it happen. Every now and then.
DNow this is something that interests me. Who and where and when?
MI've even seen Johnny Carson be real.
DDo you think the fact that you catch him unawares sometimes, do you think that's part of it, or do you think he's actually consciously done this?
MNo, I don't think it's conscious at all. If it was conscious, he couldn't stand what he does most the time, you see?
DYeah, any other examples? This interests me
MDid you see "Bonnie and Clyde"? There were some real moments in that movie. I don't think they knew when it was real and when it wasn't real. I don't think they know the difference between good acting and real life because they're awfully close, awfully close.
DWhat were these moments in "Bonnie and Clyde"?
MIt was just more like expressions that would pass over a face or two words out of a whole paragraph, it wasn't sustained.
DAny other movies?
MI've seen Brando be real. He's probably the realest thing I've ever seen on the screen.
DWhen you say real, Mel, do you mean that....
M(interrupting) I mean that it's gone beyond acting, it's gone beyond a bit, it's gone beyond technique.
DBut it's a theatrical process, in the sense that...
MYou can use a technique to ARRIVE at that point, sure, sure. In fact that's what acting's all about. It's learning how to be real.
DTell me more about Brando. In what movies do you think this happened?
MAll of his movies had real moments. In "On the Waterfront" he was real a good part of the time. The scene in the taxicab between him and Rod Steiger and the scene between him and Eva Marie Saint in the bar.
DI remember the taxi, in fact that's the one thing that sticks out in my mind.
MI mean, there was so much pain on his face when he was talking to her in the bar and him in the taxicab, you can't just put that much pain on your face, you have to be feeling that much pain to show that much pain. It wasn't even in the expression on his face, it was just there. I'm sure he arrived at that through years and years of training, but once it was there that didn't matter anymore, you see, he was real, regardless of HOW he got there.
DIs there a parallel between Brando and yourself?
MWe're both Aries.
DApart from that, what I was trying to get at, he's an actor and an actor goes through a very artificial thing in order to create an impression of truth. Do you think you've had to go through a very artificial thing, or are GOING through a very artificial thing to give an impression of truth?
MWell it's not artificial. For instance, I'm a master musician, I worked at it for years, it wasn't artificial, I enjoyed all. I wanted to do it, I played those chords over and over until I could go from one to another with ease, and I enjoyed every step of the way, you see, there was nothing artificial about it. It was something I really wanted to do, I wanted to express myself THAT way. If you want to express yourself through acting, you learn to make all the chords of acting, and then you learn to transcend those chords to play your own music, THROUGH them.
DI wasn't in fact referring to you as a musician, but uh.....
MAnd I've had to learn how to write, and I didn't even WANT to write, I never wanted to be a writer. But I saw that it was necessary to communicate that way, so l learned how to write.
DYeah, but have you learned how to present your EXISTENCE, your LIFE to the people around you?
MAs honestly as I can all the time.
DDoes that involve theater now, necessarily, if you see what I mean? Does it involve a self-stylization?
MNo, it's always different, it depends on the people around me. I'm not caught up in any particular image, any way of presenting myself, except as honestly as possible, that's my ONLY image.
DPeople generally say, when you ask them the question, what is their purpose in life, and they don't say to find God or they don't say to write the great American novel, the thing they might say is to be as real as possible. But I sense that you don't believe that most people ARE as real as possible.
MOh, I don't think ANYBODY is.
DI mean as real as they can BE.....
MPeople are at times.
DWhat is the method, if there is one, of converting this sort of "found" art, if you like, the truth, to something you can be all the time? What is the step?
MTo expose yourself. That's a big step. That's how you get crucified, you know.
DUh huh.
MMost people are afraid to expose themselves, to show how they really feel all the time.
DWhy is this?
M'Cause it hurts.
DAre you in pain?
MI'm not comfortable.
DDo you really think that these people who are, as it were, not being true, do you really think that THEY'RE comfortable.
MOh no. They're not near as comfortable as I am, and I'm TERRIBLY uncomfortable.
DAre there rules?
MAt times, sure there are.
DWhat are the rules?
MIn what kind of an instance? I mean the situation creates the rules.
DLet's create a situation, THIS one, this particular situation, what.....
M(interrupting) We've GOT it, don't we? (Laughter)
DHow real do you think I'm being with you?
MYou're being REAL-er all the time. I mean I'm really enjoying this, you're really reaching.
DWhen people meet you, do you find that your presence inevitably helps them to be realer?
DAnd in this sense, you are saving them?
MI'm helping them.
DHelping them save themselves?
DIs that what CHRIST did?
MOh yeah.
DWhy did he let himself die?
MBecause it was time for other people to take up his work. And they wouldn't do it until he was gone.
DDidn't he know that what HAS happened would happen?
DIsn't that a drag?
DWhy not?
MBecause he's still the example. That's the greatest thing a man can be.
DWell do you think that say a man like Shelley, who said, "The poet is the legislator of mankind," the romantic poets, say Shelley, Coleridge, all those people, do you think they were doing the same thing, do you think they were Christs?
DHow successful were they?
MHow many people have they affected?
DI wouldn't know.
MAnd how deeply have they AFFECTED them?
DI suspect not many.
MTHAT'S the measurement of their success.
DWhat I was going to say, your writing, your style, one has to sort of give it a category you know, is reminiscent of say, Wordsworth's essays and his poetry, Coleridge's essays..... there's a whole different consciousness going on now, because of obvious things..... airplanes, electricity, through to television, it's really very different....
MFor one thing, I'm reflecting a greater time, you see.
DSorry, I'm sick to my stomach. Could I have some milk?
Pepper:Here, have some Pepsi, it's better for you.
MWe all use Pepsi up here.
DUh, Mel, you said before you want to reach, obviously, as many people as you can, everybody ultimately, and we're in a stage now for the first time in the history of the world when we can do this.....
DNow that article in Esquire about you, which a LOT of people read....
M(humorously) ....reckon' I'm gittin' famous?
DYeah. (laughter) And you're going to do the Johnny Carson Show. Which gets to, God knows, ten million people. Now, if you go on there.....
MI met him one time before, on television, it was a very strong, strong moment.
DHow do you mean strong?
MWe were doing the Steve Allen Show on the West Coast, and he came on with us. I had a little hassle with him that was televised. He's a strong cat.
DHe's got a good technique.
MYeah, but that was what happened, you see, his technique didn't work on me, and that's why it was such a strong moment. I made him real, because I wouldn't be NOT real which is what he was trying to get me to do. Trying to get me into some kind of a bag where he could work with me, and I just couldn't be formed, I was just right there looking at him, which put him through alot of changes and while he was going through those changes, he was being real, you see.
MI know that would happen again.
DI can just imagine what he wants to do, at any rate, with the look, the sort of off-side look at the audience...
MYeah. Oh he gave me those things, I couldn't believe it, nobody'd ever done that to me before.
DThis guy's a nut, that's what he was saying.
MRight, that's what he was trying to do to me.
DThere's the Esquire thing, and there is that, and you know what the reaction is with most people when they read that. Remember, most of these people don't read AVATAR.
MThere's no comparison between how I'm represented in Esquire and how I would represent MYSELF on television.
DWhat is your best way of getting through to as many people as possible?
DBut that's not your present
MNo, I'm not gonna' do that for awhile. First I'm going to create an audience.
DDo you think this audience, when you go on television or whatever, is going to be turned on or turned off?
MYou mean love me or hate me?
MI think most of them will hate me.
DAnd then what? I mean what's your move after that?
MTo be hated.
DOkay, does that mean oblivion or does that mean certain....
MIt means being crucified, you know, publicly, that's all.
DAnd then what do you do, do you try again?
MThat's not failing.
DI don't mean failing, the fact is that if they hate you, that state can't be returned, you'll have to change that state.
MRight, right.
DWhat are your plans? First there's this, getting an audience, a conscious move. (laughter) What's the next one now?
MI know I'll play music, but I don't know how it's gonna' work out.
DDo you think other people use that system of getting their audience to hate them?
MMost people try to get their audience to LIKE them, they're AFRAID to be hated.
DDo you think in this community around you, that isn't the case?
MI mean, look at the AVATAR, we're not trying to make people like us, obviously.
DThe other question from that really should be: Do you think you're going to be successful?
MI'm going to do more and more and more and more and more and more, yeah.
DWhat happens if you're NOT successful, Mel? We're in a period where young people are more affirmative than they were, say, ten years ago. I'm inclined to think that the whole, say, fifties, the beats, that whole period, the Kerouac, Corso period, was a black nihilistic period. It was also the period of Beckett and Theatre of the Absurd....
MI think the present time is the greatest time there has ever been in the world.
DYeah, now, why? What has changed since, say, the fifties?
MPeople want something that they can't buy, also that they can't get in church. In fact, they're looking to music for it. They can't even get it out of books anymore. America wants its soul.
DDo you think 1968 is a holy year? Do you think we're in a holy age? Do you think we're entering the new second coming era?
DWhat evidence can you give me? What are the signs, what are the manifestations of this, around us?
MThis community, it's the most obvious one.
DAnd outside this community?
MThe AVATAR. You know what the word AVATAR means.
DUh huh. Are you the AVATAR, or is the AVATAR MORE than you?
MIt's not MORE than me, no, and sometimes I'm the AVATAR, and sometimes I'm asleep.
DIn this house is there a protocol, is there an order, is there an authority? Rules?
MYes, respect.
DWhat are these rules?
DFor everyone?
MIf somebody comes in my house and doesn't treat me with the proper respect, I throw them out.
DHow do you define this respect, Mel?
MIt's different in every situation, I just feel it, that's all.
DWhat I was going to ask is, is this order you have created here, is it necessary to a certain extent to protect yourself, is it there to protect you?
MNot protect, but there's alot of people I could spend alot of time talking to and not get very much done and not do other things that are more important, so I do discriminate.
DIt's a kind of production, constant production.
DIt's the same as a movie star, if he talked to all of his fans, he'd never get any movies made, or all of his enemies, whatever, or a statesman, anybody in the public light has to be very discriminating about who he sees. He just doesn't have time for everybody, that's all, time for everybody personally, he wants to reach everybody, but the medium reaches so many more people. You know, I can make an hour film and reach a million people, or I can talk to you for an hour, you see what I mean? So I would rather make the film.

26 photos accompanied the original article

Thanks for the scan of the "What's Happening Mr. Silver?" button to Peter Mork, who writes:
"The show was the flat-out grooviest thing on local TV in '67 - '68. David Silver was English, looked like Noel Harrison (the Girl from UNCLE's sidekick) and did a weekly show in a freeform format where anything could happen. One week, I recall it being just a half hour of mean looking motorcycle dudes riding in circles around a couple of middle-aged squares. Take that, Amerika! I wish they'd rerun it. I know that tapes exist because I saw bits and pieces on a WGBH anniversary show about five years ago."

Mel Lyman