This came from Lord Meher, Vol 5 p. 1656-59. (Many of the names of the participants can be found by going back to the previous two pages). In June of 1932, Meher Baba addressed a gathering of shakers and movers in the then nascent American film industry at Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbank’s mansion Pickfair in Beverly Hills:
I was particularly glad to come to California because of the opportunity which it afforded to contact those who made or appeared in motion pictures, and I am delighted that this gathering could be arranged tonight.
I do not need to tell you who are engaged in the production and distribution of motion pictures what a power you hold in your hands, nor do I doubt that you are fully alive to the responsibilities which the wielding of that power involves. He who stimulates the imagination of the masses can move them in any direction he chooses, and there is no more powerful an instrument for stimulating their imagination than motion pictures.
People go to the theater to be entertained. If the play is strong, they come away transformed. They surrender their hearts and minds to the author, producer, director and stars, and follow the example which they see portrayed before their eyes more than they themselves realize.
Both the press and the radio influence thought, but both lack the power of visible example, which is the greatest stimulant to action, and which the motion picture offers better now than any other medium.
We find ourselves today in the midst of a worldwide depression which affects everyone, rich and poor alike, and from which all are groping blindly for deliverance. The film companies, the picture theaters and the stars have also suffered from it. If they could help to end the depression, I am sure they would be glad to. How could the motion pictures help in this respect?
First, it must be understood that the depression is not an accident, nor is it purely the result of overproduction and inflation. Those, although the immediate causes, are merely the instruments which were used to bring the depression about. The depression itself was caused by those entrusted with the evolution of humanity. Man has to be stripped of his material possessions in order that he may realize through actual experience that his true base is spiritual and not material. Then will he be ready to receive the Truth which I have come to bring.
This Truth consists of the knowledge that man, instead of being a limited, separate individual completely bound by the illusion of time, space and customs, is eternal in his nature and infinite in his resources. The world illusion is a dream of his imagining, a play enacted in the theater of his consciousness – a comedy in which he is at once the author, producer, director and star. But his absorption in the role, which he has chosen to enact, has made him forgetful of his true self, and he stumbles now as a creature through the path he has created.
Man must be awakened to his true nature. He must see that all material expression depends upon and flows from a spiritual being. Then he will be steadfast and serene under all circumstances. There will be no further need then for the depression and it will disappear.
Now, how can the motion pictures help man attain this realization? The character of the film need not be changed. Love, romance and adventure are themselves fundamental. They should be portrayed as thrillingly, as entertainingly, and as inspiringly as possible. The wider the appeal the better.
What needs to be changed is the emphasis, or stress. For example, courage is a great virtue but it may, if misapplied, become a vice. So it is with love, the mainspring of our lives, which may lead to the heights of Realization or to the depths of despair. No better example can be given of the two polarities of love and their effects than that of Mary Magdalene before and after meeting Jesus.
Between these two extremes are many kinds of love, all of which are good, but some of which are better than others. I use the terms “good” and “better” simply to designate the degrees of liberation which they lead to or confer. Even the love which expresses itself through physical desire is good to the extent that it frees one from the thralldom of personal likes and dislikes, and makes one want to serve the beloved above all other things.
Every human relationship is based on love in one form or another, and endures or dissolves as that love is eternal or temporal in character. Marriage, for example, is happy or unhappy, exalting or degrading, lasting or fleeting according to the love which inspires and sustains it. Marriages based on sexual attraction alone cannot endure; they lead inevitably to divorce or worse. Marriages, on the other hand, which are based on a mutual desire to serve and inspire, grow continually in richness and in beauty, and are a benediction to all who know of them.
To lead men and women to the heights of Realization, we must help them to overcome fear and greed, anger and passion. These are the result of looking upon the self as a limited, separate, physical entity, having a definite physical beginning and definite physical end, with interests apart from the rest of life, and needing preservation and protection.
The self, in fact, is a limitless, indivisible, spiritual essence – eternal in its nature and infinite in its resources. The greatest romance possible in life is to discover this Eternal Reality in the midst of infinite change. Once a person has experienced this, one sees oneself in everything that lives. One recognizes all of life as his life, everybody’s interests as his own. The fear of death, the desire for self-preservation, the urge to accumulate substance, the conflict of interests, the anger of thwarted desires are gone. One is no longer bound by the habits of the past, no longer swayed by the hopes of the future. One lives in and enjoys each present moment to the fullest. There is no better medium to portray this than motion pictures.
Plays which inspire those who see them to greater understanding, truer feelings, better lives need not necessarily have anything to do with so-called religion. Creed, ritual, dogma, the conventional ideas of heaven and hell, and sin are perversions of the Truth, and confuse and bewilder, rather than clarify and inspire. Real spirituality is best portrayed in stories of pure love, of selfless service, of Truth realized and applied to the most humble circumstances of our daily lives, raying out into manifold expressions, through home and business, school and university, studio and laboratory – everywhere evoking the heights of joy, the purest love, the greatest power – producing everywhere a constant symphony of bliss. ((My emphasis -ab))
This is the highest practicality. To portray such circumstances on the screen will make people realize that the spiritual life is something to be lived, not talked about, and that it, and it alone, will produce the peace and love and harmony which we seek to establish as the constant of our lives.
The movies did in fact have a big hand in pulling America out of the Great Depression. As the Master points out, the Depression was as much a spiritual phenomenon as anything else, and the movies did bring inspiration, and this was critical. Many of the people involved in the industry were idealists and they did not make big bucks, so the movies were inexpensive but good, and they were available in every American metropolis. People exhausted from the demeaning and exhausting kind of work that was available, or from worrying about how to put food on the table could usually scrape together four bits to go to the movies once a week or once a month, and it saved their lives, literally. Some of the best stories ever written and told on the silver screen date from the 1930’s.
Jai Meher Baba