Future Shock author Alvin Toffler and his wife, Heidi, once told me about a meeting they’d had with late Sony founder Akio Morita. They said he’d told them that if the electronics-firm idea hadn’t worked out, he had an alternative plan: starting a religion.
I flashed back to that story when I heard about last week’s inaugural meeting of the newly formed Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment, or GATE, which Hollywood Reporter blogger James Hibberd described as “a newly formed outfit of producers and artists with a shared enthusiasm for New Age uplift.”
“I can do that in the stupidest movies,” Carrey continued. “Honestly. To me, Dumb and Dumber is a study of pre-egoic innocence, you know? And pre-egoic innocence can’t lose.”
Headlining the GATE gathering on the Fox lot were spiritual seeker Jim Carrey and Eckhart Tolle, the Oprah Winfrey-approved author of The Power of Now. She did a 10-week “webinar” on his book last year. (A Winfrey spokesperson says she is not associated with GATE or the event last week.)
At this scary point in history, people could use some spiritual uplift. And even in less troubling times, many in Hollywood have felt that yearning. The nature of stardom is so mystifying, even for many of those who possess it, that the hunger for a roadmap is great. That goes a long way toward explaining the appeal of the Church of Scientology and the Kabbalah Centre.
Last week’s invitation-only GATE event drew an audience of about 500 that included Adrian Grenier, Jackson Browne, Garry Shandling, and Virginia Madsen. Melissa Etheridge was among the speakers. And if you think this group isn’t serious about transformational entertainment, consider that the meeting continued for four hours. (Tolle teaches that time is an illusion so perhaps that was not a problem.)
Carrey himself has long been into a mixed-bag of spirituality—a filmmaker once told me that the actor “talked about Jesus, Gandhi, and Mohammed in a way that made me think he had not done the reading.” He’s been into Tolle for a while now and at the meeting, he explained that he’d come to an understanding that his thoughts were illusory and thought is responsible for “if not all, most of the suffering we experience”—Tolle in a nutshell.
Carrey described his spiritual awakening to his flock: “Suddenly I was thrown into this expansive, amazing feeling of freedom—from myself, from my problems. I saw that I was bigger than what I do. I was bigger than my body. I was everything and everyone. I was no longer a fragment of the universe—I was the universe.”
And being Jim Carrey, he managed to be funny while he was preaching. He asked the last person in the last row of the audience to call out her name.
“Are you aware that—do you have the distinct, palpable feeling that your intention helped create this evening?”
“Absolutely,” she replied promptly.
“Do you understand that all of this, this entire event, is happening inside you?”
A pause, then an uncertain, “ Ye-e-e-s.” The audience laughed.
“I hope you can feel that,” Carrey said. “I hope you can understand that you are one of the creators of this evening. … And then I hope you are able to ask yourself—“ Why did I get such a crappy seat?”
Carrey said that entertainers can relieve suffering and asked everyone leaving the GATE meeting to “plant seeds” and put a little of that “intention” in everything they do. Clearly the bar isn’t set too high. “I can do that in the stupidest movies,” Carrey continued. “Honestly. To me, Dumb and Dumber is a study of pre-egoic innocence, you know? And pre-egoic innocence can’t lose.”
(News, on the other hand, “is all this negativity condensed.... It really is not representative of what the world is or what the world wants.” Uh-oh.)
Tolle followed Carrey. Blogger James Hibberd is a fan and, unlike me, very familiar with Tolle’s teachings. He says Tolle “generally preaches against people distracting themselves with TV and movies.” But that’s not what he had to say in front of the Hollywood crowd. Instead he talked about movies in which he finds “even a hint of spiritual truth and transformation” because “transcendence” can come from movies. And those in which he finds such hints are as diverse as Groundhog Day, The Last Samurai and Titanic.
GATE was founded by John Raatz, who is founder and CEO of a New Age marketing company called the Visioneering Group. According to his Web site, Raatz holds a “professional certification in public relations.” He’s also been a talent manager representing “high-profile celebrity actors” (as opposed to the other kind). Raatz has also been “a professional rock blues guitarist,” “the administrator of one of Southern California’s most forward-looking holistic health-care clinics,” “a certified meditation teacher,” and he’s a certified financial planner.
According to the company’s Web site, Visioneering represents “preeminent figures in new physics, eco-psychology, brain/mind research, visionary business, and spirituality.” The Web site offers a list of guiding principles, not all of which seem entirely original. They include: “Opportunities multiple[sic] as they are seized,” “All you need is love,” and “Just Do It.”
I asked Raatz whether it wasn’t just a tad too easy if you get to count Horton Hears a Who among the films that provide transformation and transcendence. “That’s a really good point and I think that’s an idea that we want to spend some time with in the next GATE or beyond,” he said. Certainly many Hollywood releases include an element of transformation, he said, but he also believes “the element of intentionality comes into play.” In other words, you should do more than just luck into your transformation.
For now, Raatz said, GATE planted a seed in the heart of Hollywood; now he wants to see how this group grows “organically into what everybody wants it to be.” Another meeting is planned for December. “We could have easily had 1,000 people” at the first meeting, he says. “We could have had 2,000 people.” So the next meeting will be bigger.
The ultimate goal is to build up “a genre of transformational media entertainment—just like action-adventure or drama.” So far, the group has relied on a small group of donors but Raatz says he’s already had expressions of interest from investors. Meanwhile, he says, he's branching out into a new line: producing films. He's got several projects that he's developing—and all of them, it goes without saying, are transformational.
Kim Masters is the host of The Business, public radio's weekly show about the business of show business. She is also the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everybody Else.