Gothic director wants to build 100 meditation palaces
For decades director David Lynch has been the guardian of American Gothic. His films have been lauded by critics and fans for exposing the dark underbelly of popular culture. He has been dubbed the ‘Tsar of the Bizarre’.
But now Lynch, whose masterpieces include Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, is surprising people with a different kind of mission. He wants to save the world. Literally.
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Wearing trademark black suit, white shirt and black tie, Lynch was deadly serious about his plans to bring about world peace. ‘Peace could be on this Earth this year. It could be a whole new world,’ he told The Observer.
The answer, says Lynch, is simple: Transcendental Meditation. Once sought out by the Beatles, it is the hottest Hollywood spiritualism of the moment. Other practitioners include actress Heather Graham, recently pictured meditating on the front of Time magazine, which devoted a cover story to the craze. But for Lynch it is no passing fad.
He became last week the public face of the practice, which originated in India with the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. At a press conference in New York’s plush Plaza hotel, Lynch launched a $1 billion fundraising campaign to build 100 ‘peace palaces‘ across America, part of a plan for 3,000 buildings across the globe, one in each major city. Inside the palaces up to 300 devotees will spend their time meditating and ‘yogic flying‘, which practitioners say is a form of levitation. Once the peace palaces are up and running – the theory goes – war, violence and crime will come to an end.
Lynch, a man who has defined weirdness through his films, is not joking. He has been practising TM since 1973, after being introduced to it by his sister. Lynch said the experience changed his life. ‘I had an anger in me before I started meditating, and I took it out on my first wife. But two weeks after meditating, that anger had left. Since then each day has been better than the day before.’
Lynch practises meditation every day and has also tried yogic flying, where devotees appear to hop off the ground in a state they describe as ‘bubbling bliss’. His inner tranquillity will come as a shock to his fans. Lynch’s reputation is founded on his films’ ability to shock with sex, violence and grotesquery. Blue Velvet is famed for its sadistic scenes involving Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini, who later became Lynch’s girlfriend. Twin Peaks told the surreal story of how a brutal murder shocked a small town. Lynch’s first film was Eraserhead, a dystopian vision of the future that ends with its main character’s head ground into pencil erasers.
The weirdness has frequently spilt into his personal life. On his office desk in Los Angeles, Lynch keeps a jar of formaldehyde. Inside is the uterus of a friend’s daughter who had it surgically removed. His artistic projects have included making human heads out of cheese and letting ants eat them.
His commitment to peaceful meditation is a world away from the darkness that inhabits most of his films. He says he has met the Maharishi several times, including during a month-long course which he recently took at the guru’s Netherlands base. ‘I can’t really talk about what I learnt there,’ he said apologetically.
But, in the course of an hour’s conversation, Lynch’s speech is peppered with lessons from the Maharishi. Transcendental Meditation teaches that all living things are connected at a fundamental level of consciousness, he said. This can be reached via meditation and can also be used to affect society as a whole: say, to promote peace and lessen war and crime. The movement estimates that it needs just 8,000 meditators working together in one place – such as a planned University of Peace in Los Angeles – to bring about a fundamental change in the world.
Lynch has no doubts, nor does he care what the sceptics think. ‘If we get enough people to do this, it doesn’t really matter what other people believe. It will work anyway. It is a beautiful revolution.’
Lynch is now just the latest Hollywood star to reveal high-profile spiritual beliefs that can bemuse or shock the movie-going public. Mel Gibson’s strict Catholicism has been the inspiration for his coming film about the Crucifixion. The film has been made entirely in Latin and Aramaic, and has also been accused of being anti-Jewish, which the director denies.
Lynch told The Observer he had no plans to alter his own directorial style to reflect his new crusade. He won’t be producing a Blue Velvet sequel where the brutality is stopped by the power of meditation. ‘If you want to send a message,’ Lynch quipped, ‘don’t send it in a film. Send a telegram.’