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.
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.
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)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
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)