Hollywood’s Attempt to Find Spiritual Enlightenment
The Enduring Legacy of Hans Solo and Indian Jones
By Douglas Gabriel
For those of you who read my prior piece about Star Wars, you will know that I greatly enjoyed being part of think-tank discussions with scriptwriter and film editor Marcia Lucas (George Lucas’ wife at the time) about the characters and story development based on anthroposophical concepts that formed the spiritual core of the movie.
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Well, after that, life went on. I went back to studying anthroposophy and working happily at the Waldorf Institute bookstore. The first Star Wars movie came out and, much to my delight, was a major international hit. All was well. I was satisfied that I had made a significant contribution and thought my brief connection with Hollywood was over.
It wasn’t. In fact, it was just beginning. In the same way that Marcia Lucas and I had worked together to define a fairy tale space adventure within an anthroposophical framework, now I was about to enter a new kind of adventure. Hold on to your hat, Indiana Jones!
Here’s how it happened. Not long after the first Star Wars movie came out, I was working in the Waldorf bookstore.
My boss and mentor, Werner Glas, stuck his head in the doorway and said, “Douglas, a friend of Marcia Lucas is on the phone and she has too many questions for me to handle. Would you please speak with her and answer all of her questions?”
Then, he smiled radiantly at me, and headed back down the hall.
I began to feel a sense of excitement. I had met Marcia Lucas when she had visited the Institute to discuss ideas for her husband’s movie, Star Wars. At the time, I didn’t realize her accomplishments as an editor, nor did I know the impact that the space opera would have on audiences around the world. The very fact that I had contributed some of the ideas to the Star Wars storyline and characters was a thrilling realization, especially when I had heard that people were standing in long lines just to see this incredible new movie that had opened in theaters. I was looking forward to speaking to any friend of Marcia’s and helping out in any way I could.
I picked up the phone and began a conversation that lasted a long time. Kathleen, as she identified herself, was a direct and highly inquisitive person. Her questioning was unrelenting and she didn’t take partial answers. In fact, she wanted to know these answers as if her life depended on them. I naturally assumed, because of her insatiable questioning about anthroposophical principles, that she was interested in attending the Waldorf Institute as a student and take one of the programs for teacher training. So, I answered her as if her life really did depend on it.
Many times, I had taken phone calls similar to this in which someone would inquire about the course work, environment or housing. Actually, that was standard protocol for running the Institute bookstore. Seldom though, had one of the standard “student” calls been so direct, with such a broad range of modern themes to the questions.
“Who was Rudolf Steiner and HP Blavatsky? What is their relationship to Spiritism, telepathy, clairvoyance, poltergeists, possessions, exorcisms, Eastern masters, and living masters?”
So, I unpacked the whole history and development of theosophy and anthroposophy and made the distinction between spiritual realities and modern cartoons of these forces in the media. I can truly say that I filled her head with esoteric information, but at the same time, my limits were stretched by her questions like no Waldorf teacher trainer before or after. I thoroughly enjoyed the breadth and depth of the conversation and could tell that Kathleen was “getting it,” from the anthroposophical view.
I was very happy that, in my mind, I had helped convince her that Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925), founder of anthroposophy and Waldorf education, and his followers were not “pie in the sky” nut-jobs who ignore science and direct observation of reality for a path of spiritual awakening. To the contrary, Steiner is the most applicable of all spiritual development paths, as evidenced by the numerous direct areas of work that have evolved from his insight into education, agriculture, architecture, medicine and more.
In addition to answering Kathleen’s questions, I also recommended books from our bookstore because, I was, after all, a book salesman. I was shocked by the fact that she bought every book I referred to without hesitating, which was not the norm in our little bookstore. When I made reference to books that were not in stock here, she would write them down. She asked where she could find these books and I recommended the best bookstore for spiritual books, the Mayflower Bookshop in Berkley, Michigan. The Mayflower is still in operation in a little store so packed with books that one can hardly move. Yet, it has the best collection of spiritual-esoteric books in America—by far.
She took down the name enthusiastically. I gave her the number and told her to talk to my dear friend, Robert Thibodeau, the proprietor.
Then, the next round of questions focused principally on the Ark of the Covenant.
Where is it? Was it real? What were its powers? What was it made of? Are there authentic pictures of it? Who stole it? What did the Templars have to do with it? Do the Jews have one now and, if so, where is it? Did the Queen of Sheba take it back to Ethiopia?
Now, if you think those questions are a mouthful, you should have heard the answers. We talked for more than two hours and the total of her book order was the largest I had ever sold. It took three boxes to hold all of the anthroposophical books she wanted. I started to think she might not be coming here since she was having so many books shipped to her. Yet, I made it my business not to pry into other people’s personal lives, so I didn’t ask any direct questions about her background or whether or not she intended to join the Institute as a student. Anyway, there was no time for me to ask questions because I was too busy answering them! I loved showing off my study in the very fields of knowledge she was asking about. And, of course, I was happy to sell books for the Institute.
I can honestly say that the depth of what I told Kathleen in that first telephone call, and two other similar calls, simply cannot be shared outside of esoteric circles. There are great and powerful secrets implicit in certain types of archetypal symbols and parables (stories) that shape human intellectual and spiritual development. I shared many of those ideas with Kathleen to try to drive to the heart of what “stories” embody for the collective consciousness of humanity. She was asking about the hidden meaning behind stories to try to find the core wisdom. This noble motivation inspired me and I shared stories with her from obscure sources that explain the past with self-evident wisdom, frame the present as the eternal now, and predict the future from the eternal frameworks which move us from the past into the future. The Ark of the Covenant is one of those stories.
We followed all of the historic and legendary streams of the Ark from its inception to its theft, to its reinstating, and its travel to Africa, where it exists today as a continuous stream of consciousness from Moses. Wonders do indeed stream from its very presence and only a few can endure its might in their underground temples dedicated to the Ark. A continuous priesthood has accompanied the Ark in an unbroken chain. All of these things can be found to be true – and I, or Robert from the Mayflower Bookshop, sold her a book on the topic to prove it.
I hadn’t had this much fun in a long time. Helping people on the path of spiritual development is rewarding. Giving them the tools (books in those pre-internet days) to help themselves and pointing in the direction of growth that I and many others had taken was standard practice. Even today, my wife and spiritual partner Tyla and I strive to provide a path for others in their spiritual development. It is an endeavor that we commit to daily, whether it is through our website and newsletters at OurSpirit.com, on-line videos, books, and social media. We try to be as generous in our offerings to spiritual seekers as I hope that I was with Kathleen so many years ago.
After the first conversation, I assumed Kathleen was overwhelmed with the knowledge and material, and might never call again. But she did. And this time, she was even more insistent to track down the truth, whether it lay in anthroposophy or someplace else.
I kept returning to Steiner because his opinion is so clear and helpful, but her questions seemed to go deeper into the darker aspects of theology so drew upon my former experience as a Catholic priest where I conducted many exorcisms with my mentor Father William. At first I was slightly reluctant to share my first-hand experiences of what occurs between the boundaries of the physical and spiritual worlds. But I answered and told the truth no matter how unbelievable it sounded. She did not seem to be skeptical, writing everything down and questioning me for clarification and detail as she drilled down layer by layer to hear about the darker side of the spiritual world.
We also had wide-ranging conversations about the caves in South America that Helena Blavatsky mentions where the walls are lined with gold and the masters live in secret. Many have sought these caves to find the gold but the entrance has always remained hidden to the uninitiated.
“But what would an adventurer gain from finding these caves?” she asked.
This was a sticking point that I remember quite well. These caves that Blavatsky spoke about are not physical; they are etheric. There would be nothing to “take,” no “prize for the museum” that has “great power” to rule over others. At that point, we discussed the alleged crystal skulls from South America, Shiva stones from India, the wish-fulfilling stone of Vajrayogini, magic crystals from Atlantis and Lemuria, the secret Halls of Wisdom beneath the Great Pyramid, the tomb of the first Emperor of China, and many other similar stories. All carried the same simplistic theme of physical stones being connected to spiritual development.
I emphasized downplaying the role of stones in relationship to the development of human consciousness, just like I did with George Lucas’ Kyber stones. The plot of Star Wars was initially centered on two Kyber stones, one good and one evil, a plot that is far too simple and materialistic to truly understand the spiritual development of the human being. Consciousness does not depend on finding a physical object like a stone or an artifact, except in the ancient times of Atlantis. So, I told her the story of the stones of Atlantis.
There were seven stones, each connected to the energy of one of the major six planets, with a central stone representing the sun. Each stone sat atop a pyramid in the shape of a six-pointed star. Each crystal was made of the substance that channeled a particular planet’s energy as it joins with the energy of the other crystals. According to legends, this “harmony of the spheres” energy conduit powered the advanced technology of Atlantis.
The story of the crystals of Atlantis is taken from theosophical sources and is widely speculated upon. In those times, crystals were still radiant and forming. This active nature of the crystal made it a touch-point for the resonant harmonics created by the planets moving through the ethers. At that time in history, crystals did hold great power. In the future, crystals will release that same power through new technologies.
All of these stories filled our second and third conversations, which I still hold as treasured memories. After each conversation, I packed up reference books and mailed them off. After the third conversation, the mysterious caller never called back. I wondered what had happened to her and asked Werner if Kathleen was going to come join us. He said he barely knew her and that to his knowledge, she was not. I was saddened by that and had hoped to continue the lively discussions.
Time goes by and we forget most of what we do. Likewise, for me. Until, one day I was in Michigan, watching TV with Robert at Mayflower Bookshop. On the show, producer Steven Spielberg was being interviewed. He had released the first of four Indiana Jones movies with Lucas and was discussing his new movie, Poltergeist. The interviewer asked him where he came up with such an unusual topic as poltergeists.
“From the Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner,” said Spielberg.
I turned to Robert, both of us stunned. We could not believe what we had just heard! Spielberg went on but didn’t say much more about Steiner, yet we had both clearly heard him credit Steiner for the inspiration. This was amazing, because few people know about Steiner’s teaching. To think that his anthroposophy inspired a Spielberg movie was shocking. We both had seen the movie and thought that the psychic in the movie resembled the Theosophist Madame Blavatsky and several scenes, which were quite authentic, reminded me of my days as an exorcists. We thought the movie was amazing!
I turned to Robert and said that I had always wanted to help Spielberg do a movie, a great one that really gets to the heart of spiritual matters. I wanted to hang out with Spielberg and Lucas, both known to associate with Waldorf schools, and cross-pollinate archetypal icons for a spiritual future that could educate people through movies. I loved movies and found them to be just as demonic as Steiner said they were, but also a powerful tool of social development through displaying moral archetypes in a captivating way. They are “dreams of the future,” if you will.
We had a group of thinkers in our Mayflower community who dreamt such thoughts and put our work into writing, education, music, art, and other cultural seeding. We longed for a platform to reach more people about the amazing powers of transformation available through self-development in many different streams of wisdom. Movies could deliver these messages to the world. I longed for the opportunity to unveil previously secret wisdom on the big screen.
I had often spoke to Robert and other esoteric friends about my dream to link up with Spielberg as I had the opportunity to do with Marcia Lucas before the Star Wars treatment became a screenplay. I simply wanted to know how much he knew about Steiner and how much he intended to display in movies. My friends and I discussed Poltergeist and found anthroposophical ideas throughout the entire movie and especially clear representations of the electro-magnetic, sub-natural forces that bind human souls to the earth realm through television. The accurate depiction of possession was frightening and realistic. And of course, the special effects and dynamic editing blew us all away. Spielberg was going places that were inspired and gifted beyond anything before his time.
I eventually discovered the connection between Spielberg-Kathleen Kennedy-Marcia and George Lucas and their blockbuster movies Star Wars and Poltergeist. I realized that Kathleen had acted as a creative proxy, reaching out to me and my colleagues for the knowledge to incorporate into his fabulous movies, just as Marcia had done with us at the Waldorf Institute. So, in that sense, I felt there was already a connection. I had, indirectly, influenced Spielberg’s and Lucas’ movies by providing the knowledge to Kathleen Kennedy and Marcia Lucas. I am filled with gratitude that these creative people found me in Michigan and gave me the time to share the arcane and occult.
Indiana Jones also came from this steam, but did not get our full approval. We saw the movies and loved them but found little coherence between the historical Ark of the Covenant and the entertainment version flush with Nazis. They were cheesy, not unlike parts of Star Wars. The entertainment value of the blockbuster feature was a new phenomenon of our time. Basically, we were seeing our new cultural heroes and heroines raised up to the silver screen – like Greek gods raised into the starry sky.
Time passed. I had left the Institute and occasionally worked with Robert. One Saturday afternoon, I was working in his Mayflower Bookshop. The phone rang. I answered. A female voice on the other ends said, “I understand this is where I can talk to the smartest anthroposophist around?”
If you knew Robert, you would understand my answer. “That’s right ma’am,” I said. “You have a question and we will give, get, or find the answer. And I, have a degree in anthroposophy. I may not be the smartest but I actually have a college degree in these subjects.
“Well, I have some questions and need the entire background of the subject to form a picture of it. The many stories do not agree. What is the truth of the Holy Grail?” she asked.
As a side note, working at the Mayflower Bookshop involved answering the most far-out questions from the most far-out people in the English-speaking world. Robert had amassed the largest collection of rare books concerning every type of spiritual, religious, astrological and historical topic. People traveled from all around the country to buy books at his store and to interact with Robert and his team of talented psychics, astrologers, readers, and the brilliant thinkers who frequented the scene. So, when you answer the phone at the Mayflower, you had better be ready for anything. Being a little bit over-confident didn’t hurt the Mayflower reputation.
Asking me about the Holy Grail is like asking an old man to talk about his aches and pains. I lit into a litany of descriptions framing the Celtic, Christian, Pagan, mythological and archetypal nature of the grail. Then I described Steiner’s views, both his cosmic and earthly descriptions. She asked me about books containing these ideas. I described for her the contents of each book on the topic one by one. I was so proud and egotistic in my youth, so anxious to show my intellectual prowess. Soon, a stack of books was mounting. Robert came out and asked what was going on. I pointed at the books. He smiled and returned to the front of the store.
We continued to talk and talk and stack up books on the Holy Grail. I was amazed to see just how many titles the Mayflower carried on the different versions of the grail. After two boxes of books, we ended the conversation and I charged her for the books. I was shocked. Her credit card was in the name of Kathleen Kennedy.
“THE Kathleen Kennedy, who works for Steven Spielberg?” I said.
“Yes,” she said.
At that point, I almost passed out. The clouds of years cleared before my wisdom eye and I realized this was the same Kathleen that I had spoken with years before. In fact, I had given her the very phone number of the Mayflower Bookshop phone that I now answered. The circuitous nature of destiny was dizzying to my mind.
I was dazed as I reviewed the ideas I had shared with her at that time and the two movies Spielberg had produced since then. Now, she was asking about the Holy Grail.
So, I had to ask: “Are these books getting to Spielberg to help develop new ideas?”
“Yes, I am his assistant and I gather research for all of us to look at to stimulate ideas,” she said frankly.
This was actually too much for my little mind to comprehend. I had been sending books to the think tank of all movie think tanks and “adding my two cents.”
“These books will be looked at by a collective of people percolating ideas for movies,” she said. “But honestly, we don’t have the time to read them all so we need you to point us in the direction of a simple version that is loaded with symbols, archetypes and plots that resemble the true path,” she added.
I was so glad the conversation ended shortly after she said that. I boxed up the books and hoped this would appease Robert for staying on the phone for so long. We had been a part of the greatest movie think tank that has shaped humanity’s collective consciousness! I was numb at the thought of what I had unknowingly done. The very thing I wished to do, but thought I was too insignificant to do, had already happened (Star Wars) and was happening again. In some small way, I made a free offering of the heart that was taken up and developed into lasting modern icons. I was overwhelmed by what it must be like to be Spielberg or Lucas or Kathleen, knowing that they are shaping history and the perceptions that build human development directly into the subconscious realms of human aspiration and dreams.
Binding up the boxes and labeling them, I could hardly describe to Robert what had just happened. He was shocked and pleased. I asked a colleague to take over at the front desk and asked Robert to join me in his office. I told him what had just happened in detail and the revelation that this happened once before years ago. He was amazed, but not dazzled. Robert was already a famous personality himself, because of his high-profile astrological clients around the world who claimed he was one of the best. It took a lot to impress him. He was skeptical about ever meeting Spielberg or Lucas and that Kathleen Kennedy might do little with these books. He thought they would end up the same as the ones sent from the Waldorf bookstore – barely influencing the plot line. In the gravity of his experience, he was right.
The next time Kathleen called the Mayflower, I talked with her deeply about the Holy Grail and about the underground “caves” in South America and the end of the story I called “Sun Seed.” Kathleen seemed to be an honest and very practical student on the path. I held back nothing from her many penetrating questions. I answered the best I could and stacked up the books again and mailed them.
This went on a number of times over a period of about a year. Same routine, same lack of finding exactly what the think tank wanted. They wanted something short, easily understood by young and old, slow and wise. This proved to be a huge problem for me because the essence of the Holy Grail cannot be crammed into one short story. We needed to frame the cultural references and limit the topic.
After some time, the conversation went beyond buying books and I had to take the calls as a “reading,” which I was used to doing. We racked up many hours talking about these subjects deeply. I was happy because I was being paid by the hour. Kathleen was happy to pay and ask questions – I was happy to answer, be paid and try to help in some small way. Still, I couldn’t quite get it right.
Kathleen decided to come to the store and meet us and have a face-to-face conversation about the Holy Grail. I looked forward to this meeting and hoped that the personal touch might bring forth the essence of what the think tank wanted to display in the movie. The opportunity was so grand, if I could just get the plot into a simple archetypal form.
We were honored the day Kathleen came to the Mayflower. We talked throughout the day and she spent time looking through the amazing collection of rare books. She could now see why we had so much to offer in terms of books. At the end of the day, I could still see that look of dissatisfaction and incompletion on her face. I felt like a failure. We got up and went to the door. After hugging her good-bye, it suddenly hit me.
“Wait a minute. I get it,” I said.
I suddenly had a clear picture in my mind. It was very simple and would incorporate many of the themes – but not a true and literal stream of the grail. It would be fictional, yet retain elements of truth that point in the right direction.
Kathleen came back, sat down and took out her notebook. I explained the elements that must be in the story and synthesized all of the stories into one.
Here is the vision I shared with her:
There needs to be three knights who go to Jerusalem to find the grail. They are tasked with bringing it to the West and guarding it until the time comes for a “chosen one” to cross the bridge of death between the physical and spiritual, and reach the holy shrine of the grail carved in solid stone. Hide the grail in plain sight, so only the “pure of heart” knows which of the many grails is the one and only grail, the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper. This cup is humble and anyone who drinks from it lives forever.
The three knights drink from the cup to live and protect the grail. Two knights fall in battle defending the grail while one knight retreats to the grail cave to watch over it. Only the pure of heart can make it over the “bridge of sighs” that takes the life of all who try to cross without the proper moral development. They must know the question that frees the knight and then “knights” a new keeper of the grail.
The moral question is, “Will the pure of heart give up their life for another?”
This pursuit enables the seeker to cross the bridge, but then they must defeat the protector or assume his duties after the proper grail is discerned through purity. Once the grail leaves the purified realm of the grail cave, it heals the earth by falling into the deepest part, which brings restorative forces to Mother Nature.
The Holy Grail is, thus, a living imagination of the etheric realm. The drama centers around efforts to defend Her just as others try to defile Her.
This little story then became the simple plot of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, mixing crusaders with grail knights, adventurous archeologists, CIA, Nazi and Nubean Temples. Wow, don’t blink or the spiritual plot of the movie may whiz right by you.
After the movie came out, I truly had to ask myself, “Was that what I was hoping for?” I didn’t think so. The impact of the Holy Grail was incidental, marginalized just as the Ark of the Covenant was perceived as a weapon in the first Indiana Jones movie, or as a golden skull inside a secret cave, or crystal skulls in South American cave, or Shiva stones that assume the characteristics of the Stones of Atlantis. It is somewhat disappointing that the spiritual references were lost in the action-packed dynamics of adventure and mystery, but at least they were included.
Our response to seeing spiritual ideas trivialized was rather critical. The real mystery and power of the grail did not come through the plot of the movie. The reverent moment in the grail cave was beautiful and did stay true to the dynamics of a knight on the path of the Holy Grail. But all too soon, Indiana Jones crossed back over the bridge to save his father and ultimately see the Holy Grail fall into the bowels of the earth.
I was very happy about this particular point. I had focused on it as a critical element of truth that places the Holy Grail, as a physical object, deep within the earth. The true Holy Grail is not physical and shouldn’t be an object that Nazis can find and utilize for evil, just like the Ark, or Shiva stones, or golden or crystal skulls. Spirit is displayed in the architecture, art, and relics of ancient cultures that held “objects” as sacred, filled with spirit. We should not over-materialize these spiritual forces by worship of objects that represent them. In that way, the ending of the movie was great. Indiana saves his dad and the Holy Grail is committed to the heart of the earth. That part of the story was grand because it conveyed part of the true nature of the etheric Holy Grail which is still active today.
After she had visited us that day in the bookstore, I only talked with Kathleen a few more times. We filled in some of the details of the short “fairy tale” version of the Holy Grail, as I came to call it. I also shared with her the “truth” about the caves in South America that Blavatsky said were lined with gold and home to the masters. This was in the form of a long story called “Sun Seed,” about a seeker who finds his way to these caves and what he encounters there, as well as its relationship to sunspots and the shifting of the poles. Twelve masters must meet in the cave to create a new Ark that will keep the earth from great physical upheavals.
Years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Crystal Skull came out and I was sad to see that the story had devolved into using an alien craft, not a spiritual edifice, and that the last missing skull was necessary to activate the process instead of the last master who had to find his way to the Sun Ark. Again, rocks take the place of consciousness. Instead of bringing forth spiritual beings, they bring forth aliens. This was sadly disappointing and a far cry from the intention of the story as it was imagined. Only the outer husk of the story was used, then placed in the middle of muddle and action-packed suspense. In the noise, the spiritual message got lost.
Nowadays, it is our good fortune that so many amazing spiritual concepts have reached the movies. It is obvious there are now plenty of people like me who want to see truth beautifully displayed through sweeping stories that connect the viewer with their humanity and enrich their place in the process of the whole.
I love a movie with a great story that keeps building capacities by reflecting upon the archetypes displayed. I hope that the never-ending stories and fairy tales that inspire us keep offering these soul archetypes to humanity. They will help all of us as spiritual beings move through catharsis to the other side of suffering, to cross the bridge of sighs, where ultimately we will find wisdom at the end of the trail.
Douglas and Tyla Gabriel are delighted to share this story with you as a part of the Our Spirit project, which is a new Inspiration and Imagination of anthroposophy in our times. If you received this from a friend, thank them and return the blessing by freely sharing this story with your spiritual friends and colleagues and Star Wars and Indiana Jones fans. This story may be reproduced in its entity as long as this source statement is included. OurSpirit.com