From the Library Stacks: Room to Dream...
I am still taking stock of my bookshelves and items from my collection, Room to Dream, by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna is the book being examined in this post.
Caveat: Below, I list and analyze some Hindu beliefs. We need to be aware that Hinduism is sometimes called a family of religions, not a discrete religion of one belief – thus some statements way below in the listing and the analysis must be read with that in mind.
All folks who talk to me at length will find that I am a fan of David Lynch. I like this man’s art! His paintings, photography, films, television projects, even the few of his commercials that I have seen (unfortunately, I have seen very few of his commercials I must admit). If you knew his website back when it was being run on Flash and fundamentally was designed and run by him, will know that David Lynch has ‘preached’ Transcendental Meditation (TM) for quite some years now. Most of us will know that he added his name to a foundation (The David Lynch Foundation) built on the premise to teach and advocate for world peace through TM. Room to Dream also layers TM throughout its narrative as well as a myriad of other things.
I must make one comment about the book before I draw light to its content. The style of the book has only one precedent in my mind – though there are surely others – which would be Chronicles, Volume 1, by Bob Dylan in the way that the book is full of memories, and memories as a form of art – not just memories as containers of truth from the past. Room to Dream operates in a similar, albeit, not identical fashion by laying out a ‘standard’ chapter in which a 3rd person omniscient view on history with no ‘I(s)’ or ‘You(s)’ and is then followed by the looser ruminations collected by persons who were part of that previous chapter: Lynch himself, directors, family friends, etc. These chapters jump from anecdote to anecdote and from person to person. It makes for an enjoyable matrix in which to consider the life of one, David Lynch.
I had not really considered there would be an ‘autobiography’ by David Lynch during his lifetime. There will be more biographies written about David Lynch in the future as different people assess his work from different perspectives. I want to quickly draw attention to some of the funnest moments from the book, moments that show why people like him and like working with him so much.
To begin, I will just reiterate that folks who work with David Lynch say over and over again what a pleasure it is to work with him on either the production or the acting side. Room to Dream is full of such comments that simply repeat what Peter Deming said of Lynch in the film, Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch (1997) – a kind of ‘making of’ Lost Highway (1997). Deming says, ‘What distinguishes David from other directors is that his imagination runs wild and he creates a mood on screen, and he creates a mood on the set, that people work in. I’ve never seen a crew so happy to work for a director before.’ Deming, who himself has a full set of projects under his belt in the business, has worked for David Lynch for many projects over the years, is fundamentally repeated by actor or production person after another with his words. Nearly identical sentences are said by Naomi Watts, Kyle MacLachlan, Isabela Rossellini, and Deepak Nayar. It just seems that he is somebody who really shows respect to people, no matter their contributions to the film, and during the entirety of shooting. I get the impression that this is not the case on many sets in Hollywood. That mood Deming describes also permeates the friendliness of the anecdotes from the many players who show in the book’s pages. It feels very nice (which is the kind of word that Lynch himself would use I think).
I don’t want to retell the story in the book, but there were so many items from the early days and the almost present days that lay out what kind of artist David Lynch is – he works all the time and has multiple projects on his plate simultaneously. One such example takes place in London while David Lynch is taking a ‘rest’ from the filming of The Elephant Man (1980). David’s wife of the time had just had a miscarriage, and the film was in the editing phase, so there was time and emotions at play at that point in Lynch’s life.
This selection from the book summarizes this point about the multiple projects very well: “Lynch’s idea of relaxing is to make something, and when Fisk returned to America for additional medical care following her miscarriage, he came up with a project for himself. The day she left London, he went to a fish counter and purchased a mackerel, took it home, dissected it, laid out the parts, labeled them for ease in reassembly, then photographed the display” (page 152).
David Lynch shows what a productive human being with certain gifts can accomplish. Now, these gifts were given to Lynch by God himself, but Lynch does not give him honor. He is someone who shows what a person can do if they use their time well, knowing it is limited. I really appreciate this aspect of Lynch’s life, or what we might call the ‘art life.’ Criterion in fact distributes a documentary about David Lynch called, David Lynch: The Art Life (2016). The book details the development of his three-house compound in the hills around Los Angeles in which he houses his painting studio, his music/recording studio, and rumor has it that he even builds his own furniture. I very much appreciate these aspects of David Lynch’s life and this book, Room to Dream, relates much of this creativity, the process, and the people involved.
At this point, I must turn a corner to look at Lynch’s embrace of Transcendental Meditation. The book’s included index allows me to go back through the pages that reference TM [25, 50, 104-5, 130, 270, 274, 379, 421, 422, 467-68, 470, 500, 504] (575). As one can see, Lynch has held onto his belief in TM for a long time, and in the book, he gives it much credit, as to others who saw changes in David Lynch’s life. They talk about his reduction of anger and in his book, Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, he focuses on TM and its relationship to his own creative beliefs.
I am happy that Lynch has found happiness and he is less angry with other people. These are good things. But there are all kinds of things that can cause a person to feel happier, some of which are just regular things that happen in peoples’ lives. But just because David Lynch enjoys TM, and finds value in it does not mean that TM is inherently right or true. TM is not only philosophically empty, it is fundamentally, and this is the important point, a lie. It is not based on truth.
I will dig into some of these aspects of TM in a bit. Right off of the bat, however, let me just state that as a practice it has removed itself from its religious context and even declares one need not have religious beliefs to practice it. Yet, the very nature that there is some ‘truth’ or truth-value to be found in TN praxis, one must realize that it presupposes that it is truly valuable and can truly help a person to realize something about themselves. This is presupposed – and yet un-examined. Nobody is neutral, and TM is certainly not. What justification do the practitioners have for their beliefs in its practice? Do they trust their feelings? Well. why should we trust one person’s feelings about what is true? In Room to Dream, David Lynch talks about allegiance to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and being saddened when he died. But in this narrative is no reliance upon TM’s Hindu background. This suggests to me that it is cherry picked for something it offers as useful, aka, ‘pragmatic,’ and does not necessarily encompass anything like a worldview or even trying to form a worldview in seriousness.
In addition, and this is huge, TM as a practice, attempts to deny any necessary relationship to worldview, it has nothing to say on why or how there is even a world at all. TM has nothing to say about this very world we live on, spinning through space, exists. TM has nothing to say about what people are as creatures nor why it is even valuable to be ‘enlightened.’ The issue of worldview and the issue that there is even a world are not disconnected notions. Rather they are fundamentally related and must be examined by those who are serious about the lives they live and why the live those lives. The Bible has something very simple to say about this world we live and breathe on. In Genesis chapter 1, verse 1, we find this simple statement:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The very first words of the Bible tell us that we can know how the heavens and the earth came into existence. All was created by God himself. TM has no such claim. Rather, as already mentioned, attempts to remove itself from any significant matrix of ‘world’ at all. I want to take this further, right past all the prophets who told of the coming of the King, the Son, the Messiah, to words about that very King, Jesus, found in Paul’s letter to the church at Collosae, Colossians, chapter 1, verses 15-17,
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
The question then is, do we trust the words in the Bible? If not, why not? We could go further, but in just the inclusion of these four verses, the one from Genesis, and the three of Colossians, we see two important simple statements: 1. God created the world (the heavens and the earth), aka, we have a statement that the ‘what’ was created and is not just tacitly taken for granted as existing, and; 2, we are told who created the what – it was God the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus created everything and holds everything together. What an important statement that God, the God who became a man in Jesus, walked on the planet Earth for a time, is the creator of all things that have been made. Wow! Do we believe these words? I do. But what a difference this statement is from the Bible than anything like TM because, if the God of the Bible is the creator of everything that has been made, seen and unseen, this should radically change our lives and our understandings of who we are as humans. We must have a true anthropology before we can even dream of knowing who we are or what we are capable of doing. The Biblical view of creation is a great starting point for a true anthropology.
According to the Transcendental Meditation site, tm.org, “The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in the U.S. by Maharishi Foundation USA.” From the book, we know that David Lynch fell in love with TM in the 1970s and developed a fondness for TM’s founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu leader, who brought TM to America, and who died in 2008. TM is defined in this way, according to the site, “The TM technique allows your active mind to easily settle inward, through quieter levels of thought, until you experience the most silent and peaceful level of your own awareness — pure consciousness.”
Hinduism is a large religion. The History Channel web-page for Hinduism says this, “Today, with about 900 million followers (Wikipedia states the number of followers is about 1.25 billion as of December 2020), Hinduism is the third-largest religion behind Christianity and Islam.” That is a large group. I will delve a bit into Hinduism because TM was taught by someone whose original religion was Hinduism. David Lynch has no stated relationship to Hinduism. The book does not even list “Hinduism” in the index. The TM site referenced above suggests that one does not need any specific beliefs in God or religion to practice it. That might technically be true as David Lynch makes no statements for one religion or another. But the source for TM is Hinduism in a similar way that Yoga has its origin in India and the Vedas. One can not separate the religious practice from either.
That same History page referenced above lists some of these basic Hindu beliefs (remember: Hinduism is sometimes called a family of religions, not a discrete religion of one belief) What follows is a list of some of these beliefs with some response from a biblical perspective:
Hindu Belief: Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, which means they worship a single deity, known as “Brahman,” but still recognize other gods and goddesses. Followers believe there are multiple paths to reaching their god.
Biblical Response: The Bible refutes this statement and declares there is one God. We know this from the ancient statement known as the ‘shema,’ “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4) / “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me” (Isaiah 43:10) / In the book of Mark, when a scribe asks Jesus what the most important commandment is, replies, quoting the verse above from Deuteronomy 6:4, “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ ‘The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM” (Mark 12: 28-32).
Clearly, the Bible declares that there is one God (and we know from the previous comments about creation, that this one God created the heavens and the earth).
Hindu Belief: Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect)
Biblical Response: No place is anything like reincarnation stated or supported in the Bible, but rather, in a straight forward manner says what we would call the opposite truth, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Clearly, the Bible says that each human lives and dies the one time and then, this one God who created the heavens and the earth will judge each human.
Hindu Belief: One fundamental principle of the religion is the idea that people’s actions and thoughts directly determine their current life and future lives
Biblical Response: I won’t suggest that people’s decisions, actions, and thoughts don’t have consequences, but they do not cause consequences in the ultimate sense. Humans are creatures, as we know from Genesis, they are created by God alone. The Bible says that God is sovereign in these (a selected number) verses: There is verse after verse in which this phrase is used – a phrase that reiterates that God’s purposes and plans will be fulfilled, “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (2 Kings 19:31, Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah 27:32) / “The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:1) / “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9) / Referring to those who love God, Paul writes to the Roman church these words, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8: 28) / “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ (Daniel 4:35) / and a real clincher from Psalms, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115: 3). Wow, God resigns over all.
These verses work together to declare that not only is God sovereign over all things, but He will not be mocked. His word stands firm and will not be broken. God himself determines people’s lives, not us. Plus, and this is a key factor in an analysis of TM, its Hindu roots, compared to Christian beliefs, not only do we not have ‘future lives,’ as determined by those verses already mentioned above about once to die and then the judgment, but that mention of ‘future lives’ refers to reincarnation and the human ‘works’ that determine how one is continuing in their reincarnation…God himself is a savior by showing grace. There is clearly a ‘works’ orientation for ‘improvement or ‘salvation’ (which I don’t think is a word that would be used by Hindus, though I could be wrong). But the Bible tells is that no one is saved by works, but by grace. Paul, states this so clearly in his letter to the church in Ephesus, when he writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). so, with that one statement from the list of Hindu beliefs, we can find two points being made that are refuted by the Bible. God is in charge of every life and and God saves by grace. One is not saved by one’s own actions or ‘works.’
Hindu Belief: Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of living that emphasizes good conduct and morality
[I feel we need to make sure we understand how ‘dharma’ is defined so we can properly add a response.]
ref: ‘Dharma‘ is defined by the OED as, “In India, social or caste custom; right behaviour; law; esp. in Buddhism and Hinduism: moral law, truth.”
ref: ‘Dharma‘ is defined by Britannica as, “Dharma, Sanskrit dharma, Pali dhamma, key concept with multiple meanings in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism…In Hinduism, dharma is the religious and moral law governing individual conduct and is one of the four ends of life.”
Biblical Response: All points are connected of course, and by that I mean, that the Biblical response I offer below will and must embrace each point already offered. The is One God, He is sovereign over all things, and after each person’s single death, they will be judged. This above definition of ‘dharma’ from the History site, above the two other referenced definitions, infers a statement that there is moral right and moral wrong (called: ‘dharma’). But from what source or origin could we justify or validation calling a moral or moral-action ‘right’ or ‘wrong?’ The God of the Bible, the Holy Creator of the universe, has nobody higher in authority than Himself by whom to declare or swear or promise anything because besides Him, there is no God (Isaiah 44:6) / Jesus said he came not to abolish the law (that is the moral law), but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17) / Jesus, when asked by John the Baptist why he would be baptized (because John the Baptist knew that Jesus was in need of no repentance because He had no sin), Jesus says let be so to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) / Hmm, Paul writes in Galatians, chapter 4, verse 4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” – and Jesus us telling us that he came to fulfill the law, in fact, to fulfill all righteousness / When Jesus is approached by the ‘rich young ruler’ in Matthew chapter 9, Jesus tells this man, “There is only One who is good” (Matthew 9:17) / And after the resurrection, the powerful action of which Jesus said, “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:18), Jesus shows himself to some disciples and Thomas, bowing down to Him in worship, says, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). These verses, plus so many more, militate for the idea that not only is Jesus God, the Creator, but that He is the standard Himself of which all standards of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ have their origin. God himself is our source of morals and moral actions. There is no place in the biblical worldview for vague and idolatrous ‘dharma.’
Conclusion: Clearly, there is a vast chasm between the beliefs of Hinduism, the religion on which TM has its origins, and Christianity as it is explained and defined in the Bible. Christ reigns as Lord of lords and King of kings! I pray that you will consider this post in light of comments made. I hope you will follow the references from the Bible and explore them to see if they do not declare that Jesus is, in truth, the perfect and all-sufficient savior! David Lynch might have found something that makes him happy, or that adds some happiness to his life and to his creative process, but according to the Bible, TM is not based or practiced from a position of truth.
The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, no TM can intuit this statement with which I conclude: Each human is a sinner before the Holy Creator of the universe. In Isaiah chapter 6, verse 5,
“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
We see Isaiah, who was a prophet, coming to this realization about himself and all those with whom he associated. Paul, the apostle writes a mirror of this statement in his letter to the Roman church when he writes in chapter 3, verse 23,
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Each of us stands condemned before a Holy God. We have each broken the law of God. We have created and worshiped an idol, have stolen, have disrespected our parents, or have lied, or something else God has spoken on in His law / We have broken that law, each, every one of us, and we know it. And once a person breaks one law, it is the same as if they have broken all of it (James 2:10). Paul tackles this issue that we know this fact clearly, in Romans 1, verses 18-20,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse”
But, what did God do? Did he leave us humans in our sin, to die in our sin, and all to go to hell?
No, He sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus the Christ!
This is the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). “Jesus said…, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the mercy of God revealed in his Son, this is the grace of God in action. And Jesus came into the world, in the flesh, in history, Approximately two thousand years ago. If we repent of that sin we know we have committed before our Holy Creator, and turn in faith to the Lord Jesus, we will be saved. That is my prayer for every person who reads this post, that you will turn from your sin, in faith to Jesus Christ and follow Him.
“dharma, n.”. OED Online. December 2020. Oxford University Press. (accessed 25 December 2020).
“dharma“. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/dharma-religious-concept (Accessed 25 December 2020)
Lynch, David and Kristine McKenna. 2018. Room to Dream. New York: Random House.
All Bible verses are from the New American Standard Bible: Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995, by The Lockman Foundation.
My other ‘From the Library Stacks’ post is here.