Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Produced by Meher Baba

I'd like to posit a funny idea, and give some reasons why it would make sense. However, I don't want anyone to get the idea that I'm seriously arguing the point. I'm just sharing what is perhaps an impossible possibility, or a possible impossibility.

In an earlier post titled A Slight Problem in Lord Meher, I pointed out that there are some problems with the wording of the statement on page 182 of Lord Meher, where it currently says:
While at St. Vincent's, Merwan also wrote a complete film scenario of nearly two hundred typed pages in English and mailed it to the Universal Film Studios in Hollywood, California. Unfortunately, what became of this manuscript nobody knows since he did not receive a reply from the American film company.
The problem with this is that St. Vincent's was the high school Baba attended, which he graduated from in 1911. Universal Studios was not established until December 1912.

As it turns out, however, there is ample evidence that Baba did in fact write something that he sent to Universal Studios in Hollywood, for it not only appears in Bailey's Diary (Baba's earliest childhood friend) but also there is mention of it in Chanji's Diary. This is from the soon to be inserted footnote in Lord Meher:
Chanji later recorded a conversation with Baba's brother Jal, who stated that the film company had replied positively and wished Merwan to expand his idea. But by that time, Baba had met Babajan and was not interested in pursuing it. 
Now think about this. By the time Baba had gotten the positive reply, he had met Babajan and was not interested. Baba met Babajan in 1913. He was not realized by her until early 1914.

If the error in Bailey's memory was only what school Baba was in, the story would make sense. Universal Studios was established by early 1913 (formed in December 1912). It was a new studio, only partly established in Hollywood, but did make films there.

It would make much more sense that Baba would have sent this film scenario to America while at Deccan College, during the two years he was there. It makes extra sense because Baba's interest was in English literature, namely we are told Shakespeare and Shelley. Baba may have had more than a passing interest in cinema.

But by the time there was any evidence of such an interest, Baba was God-realized, and then was busy with getting reestablished in gross consciousness with the help of the other perfect masters of the time.

This date for sending this draft is more credible, because we must consider how long it took to get a reply? Clearly it would not take two years to receive a reply from America. So if Baba was already realized or nearly so by Babajan, so that he ignored the reply, the sending of the script must have happened in 1913.

Now, let's consider this odd possibility. And that is that had Baba not become God-realized, his natural propensity of personality would have gradually drawn him to cinema as a profession. This would mean of course that these were the inclinations of his yoga yoga sanskaras, those placed on him by the Perfect Masters.

Are there any other signs of a latent but never fully expressed impulse in Baba to pursue cinema professionally?

I list a few that come to mind.

First of all, during the period that Baba was coming down to normal consciousness, while still apparently a Paramhansa, one passing through the Divine Junction from Majzoob to Salik, Baba's mother forced him to take a job as a theatre manager in Calcutta, managing the Khatao Theatre Company -- while at night banging his head on a rock. (see this page and LM 228)

In Infinite Intelligence, Baba uses a theatrical company as an analogy for sanskaras. He lists the parts of his analogy as follows:

   Theatrical company = subtle and gross universe.
   Owner of the company = Sanskaras.
   Part = subtle and gross form.
   Play = Life.
   Acting = The experiencing of the fine impressions in subtle and gross form, i.e. the mind's taking subtle and gross experience through the subtle and gross body.
   Actor = Mind.
   Feelings of happiness, sorrow, etc. = Experience.

What I see in this is that this experience as a theatre manager during his early years left a deep impression on him as a metaphor. I imagine he must have thought about it as he integrated his gross experience with his newly acquired Divine Gnosis.

Theatre is close to film, and as manager of such a company, had Baba remained and been successful, it would not have been a large leap to move to movie producer (the analogous job in film).

In Lord Meher Baba brings one disciple to him by telling him (apparently as a fib) that he was the owner of a film company, and that to be in his films the to-be-disciple would need to tend his todi-shop for a time. You can read about this 1919 story on page 269.

Interesting Baba told this disciple he was the owner of a film company, of all businesses to pretend to be in.

But Baba's connection to the film world does not end there. Soon after Baba gathered his disciples he opened a cinema, which he called Circle Cinema. See page 1362.

One of Baba's oppositional figures, Dastur, wrote of this cinema, describing Baba as:
Throwing disciples as well as outsiders into Maya, instead of releasing them from it, by making several disciples work in and for the Circle Cinema, of which he became proprietor this year, and by exhibiting vulgar and sensual films at it.
But Baba's connection to cinema does not end there, as most know. He went on to work with many movie personalities of the 1930s, and developed his own film project, How It All Happened, described in detail in Meher Baba's Early Messages to the West. Baba even formed a company, Circle Productions, Inc. to produce it -- even selling stock in it to his well-to-do disciples.

So what is my thought on all this? It is only a thought. Does Baba intend to come back in some future minor incarnation to complete the film he began?

There is one clue that this 'desire' (if one can call a yoga yoga sanskara a desire) exists in Baba latenly still.

During the development of this film in the 1930s, at one point Baba literally said:
Rustom has reported that the film work is being postponed for six months. Remember, I do not want all of your efforts, investment and sacrifices which you have made up until now to go in vain. I want the picture and it must be produced. So, dearests, do not get dejected but work for it with the same zeal and enthusiasm; and if in the future you really need my presence, cable me, and if the need is great, I will break the period of my seclusion and spend the remaining period in the mountains somewhere in the West after giving you a helping hand with the picture.

Coming Soon:
800 Zillion Years in the Making
Circle Films Productions Proudly Presents
an Avatar Meher Baba production
of a ____________ film
How it All Happened
Based on a concept by Merwan S. Irani (1913)

See also Meher Baba's XYZ scenario.


  1. I wonder if anyone still has that scenario in some drawer...

    1. Yes, they have it. Its progress is explained in Meher Baba's Early Messages to the West. They have copious materials that go with it, including clippings from science magazines done by disciples for the full portfolio explaining it.

  2. Do you happen to recall a source documenting Meher Baba's use of movie theaters as a place of spiritual work? I have this and similar statements from LM: "But I don't enjoy movies or the theater as you do — I make them the medium of my inner spiritual work." But I recall, or think I recall, a passage in which Meher Baba explains the particular fitness of movie theaters as place for spiritual work due to the mental suspension of the audience or something like that. Best, N

    1. No I don't. But I do know the quote to Louis van Gasteren in 1969 about cinema, saying that its value was partly in the fact that in losing yourself in the movie, you forget yourself, which he said is always a good thing.

  3. Perhaps that was imaginative memory on my part, thus further proof that "For better or for worse, the world of motion pictures has grown extensively within the larger world of so-called realities. But the film world is not foreign to the ‘real’ world—the two are affiliated so intimately that they can be seen essentially to be made of the same fabric" (LM 4350)

    1. I never heard that quote. But I love it.

  4. Cf. Ibn Arabi on barzakh, which has been applied to understanding of film here: