TCP on IndieGoGo

The Transpersonal Cinema Project is now on IndieGoGo at:

Once complete, the TCP IndieGoGo site will act as a project funding, promotion, and social networking hub for those interested in supporting and/or participating in The Transpersonal Cinema Project.

Synchronization of the Senses

Renowned Russian filmmaker and film theory pioneer Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) postulated that the unique nature of the cinema produces a holistic and transcendent "synchronization of the senses" through the "integration of word, image and sound, and the accumulation of successive images and sounds [that serve] to construct perception, meaning, and emotion". After years of cinematic experimentation and "a thorough analysis of the nature of audiovisual phenomena," Eisenstein believed that the conscious manipulation of this sensory synchronization could allow the filmmaker to converse with his or her audience on higher, deeper, and subtler levels of communication by more closely replicating the multidimensional sensory stimulation of actual lived experience.

An example of the power of this consciously controlled sensory synchronization can be found in the film Chariots of Fire (1981). In this British cinema classic, the filmmakers combine the images and sounds of the experience of running with an emotionally expressive musical score to viscerally communicate the peak experience of running. When this synchronization of image, sound, and music integrates with the film’s plot, performances, and dialogue, the audience is able to experience the ephemeral and transformative emotions involved in the physical and spiritual struggle for glory.

Celluloid Calling

Progress, 1974

All through my childhood, I struggled with finding a way to communicate with others. My stutter made verbal communication difficult and emotionally painful, and I searched for others ways of expressing myself. I began to draw at an earlier age, studying at the Art Institute of Chicago between the ages of nine and eleven. Gradually expanding into painting, still photography, and architectural design, I received numerous awards for my work. When I was sixteen I took a film class in high school. I teamed up with a friend, and we made a super 8 film together for our final project (Progress, 1974). I loved creating the film, and felt a sense of joy and purpose. When we showed the film in class, people laughed and cried. I felt a chill shoot up and down my spine as the flickering light and dancing celluloid images touched the hearts and minds of others. Time appeared to stand still, and I experienced a feeling of deep connection with everyone in the room. I also had a sense of great mystery, as though I had become a channel for something greater than myself. Suddenly, I knew that this was my path, my gift, my calling.

Transpersonal Cinema Project Website Official Launch

The Transpersonal Cinema Project website launched at

The Transpersonal Cinema Project is a groundbreaking research and production initiative seeking to investigate and advance these powerful transformational potentials of the cinema by integrating the latest theories, practices, and technologies of cinematic media, creativity, human perception, and consciousness.

Seeing the Light

"For the moment, look at cinema as a mystery religion. One enters the darkened place and joins the silent congregation. Then comes the beam of light out of the shadows: the Projector, the Great Projector up there behind us! Turn out the little lights so that the big light can penetrate the darkness! Ah, behold the unreeling of the real reality of practically everything: our dreams, our idiocies and raptures, our nativity, passion and death." 

- James Broughton (Seeing the Light, 1986)

Seeking the Heart of Darkness

Schindler's List (1993)

There is violence in the media. There is violence in the streets. My mind has been asking why… what is cause and what is effect? I have tried to rid my thoughts and actions of violence. I have boycotted violent films and the evening news. I have prayed for peace within and without. Yet I have come to see that I am in the realm of aversion and repression.

Is the violence in the media and in our streets from our collective repression of our fear of death and pain and suffering? In many cultures there are rituals around death and dying. Is our collective unconscious giving us the experiences we are not giving ourselves?

For weeks I thought about seeing Schindler's List (1993) yet the idea of the intense physical and psychological horrors I might see held me back. Finally I decided to create a spiritual practice. As I entered the theater I asked God (Higher Power, etc.) to use this experience for my awakening and healing around my perceptions of the body. As I watched blood spiriting out of a man's head I did not turn away. I allowed the waves of emotions to sweep over me as scores of naked human beings waited to be either showered with deadly gas or cleansing water. I cried as the acts of love and kindness amidst this vast darkness appeared like golden flowers rising from the mud. After the film I sat outside in front of a fountain. All the trials and tribulations of my life were gone. The beauty and impermanence of everything around me washed my mind.

Within this journey through the darkness there was love and hope and beauty. I also found both the darkness and the beauty inside my self. And for a moment they merged into a sort of sweet sorrow.

Now I am seeking a way not to condone yet not to abhor the violence around me. I wonder if I can use it to seek the violence in me and use its dark mud to grow the golden flowers of light.

I have noticed my own tendency to see Transpersonal films in terms of films of light and not of darkness. Yet now I can think of several films, which are clearly transpersonal odysseys through darkness. There are films which show the triumph of the human spirit through the dark horrors of existence (Schindler's List, 1993); films which take us to the horrors and madness deep inside us (Apocalypse Now, 1979); and films which take us through the darkness of our minds on our way to the light (Jacob's Ladder, 1990).

But perhaps every journey through darkness and violence can be consciously used for our own healing. And perhaps as we make this journey and face our fears, the external manifestations will dissolve into the golden lotus growing up from the dark mud.

(Originally published in Focus: The Quarterly Newsletter of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Winter, 2-3, 1994)

The Medium is the Transpersonal

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

What is the connection between the Transpersonal and Cinema? Perhaps the very nature of any creative media is Transpersonal. Film and video, as well as all the arts . . . are ultimately the ideas, thoughts, and feelings of a "personal" mind (or minds) being extended outward to other minds. At this level we might say that the "medium is the message."

In the particular case of film, we have a medium steeped in alchemy, mythology, illusion, magic, and transcendence. When audiences first saw the image of a speeding train projected on a screen in front of them, they leaped from their seats and ran out of the theater screaming. A French magician made films in which people disappeared, became transparent, and flew to the moon. Like an ancient religious ritual we enter a darkened place in silence. As we sit before the giant alter, a great light slices the darkness and transforms the two-dimensional screen before us into a three-dimensional world.

Beyond the transpersonal nature of the medium itself, are some films more transpersonal than others? Surely films about angels (It's A Wonderful Life, 1946), life after death (Ghost, 1990), altered states (Altered States, 1980), dreams (Kurosawa's Dreams, 1990), archetypes (Star Wars, 1977), UFO phenomena (E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, 1982), mystical realities (The Last Wave, 1977) or religious experiences (The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988) are transpersonal in their content. And films that deal with shifts in temporal and spatial reality, like Field of Dreams (1989) and Groundhog Day (1993), weave the transpersonal into the dramatic structure itself. Then there are the films which embrace the transpersonal in the visual form as well as through the subject content and dramatic structure. In films like Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987) and Lawrence Kasden's Grand Canyon (1991) the camera transcends all boundaries, moving through walls and floating through the air to capture the visceral reality of these other realms. Of course these categories tend to overlap and most transpersonal films are a combination of these elements.

I believe there is also a more subtle way that the transpersonal enters the cinema. There are films that move us in ways that are beyond just the stimulation of thoughts, ideas and emotions; beyond content, drama and form. These films cause a subtle shift inside us, they touch us on the level of soul or spirit. Sometimes these films deal directly with transpersonal realms; sometimes they are simple films about love and the human spirit; sometimes they are dark journeys into the underworld.

The power of these films seems to depend on the intersection of our own life's journey with the journey of the film. When this connection is made it seems as though this film was made for us. A chill moves through us and the notion of a grand design touches our awareness. In this way any film becomes transpersonal. From great works of filmic art to pop culture escapist adventures. Somehow the divine seems to be woven into the light of the movie projector. As the images and sounds dance before us, our realities and projections meet. Sometimes we are moved and entertained . . . and sometimes we are transformed.

(Originally published in Focus: The Quarterly Newsletter of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Fall, 1-2, 1993)

Gravity Waves

I ride the waves of gravity,
surfing on the cosmic sea of light,
rippling distortions in the fabric of space-time,
rising from the past,
cresting in this very moment,
falling toward an unknown future shore.
Have to remember to ride the now,
looking back or looking ahead,
is always how I wipe out.

Night Watch

In the fall of 1985 I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I remember walking into the room where Rembrandt’s “Nightwatch” was hung. I froze in my tracks and softly gasped (in-spired). The painting’s presence was so powerful that it felt as though I had entered the presence of some great force. The painting seemed alive, as though Rembrandt had captured the life energy of himself, the people he was painting and the presence of the divine, and fused it all into the paint and canvas. I sat in front of the painting for hours, while it spoke to me through image, character, story, color and light about human struggle and divine yearnings within myself and within all of humanity. The messages I was receiving from the painting seemed to be answering some of the inner questions that had been on my mind just before I entered the museum. That night I lay in bed feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the gifts of the inspiration and guidance I had received at the foot of that giant wondrous canvas.