DECEMBER 11, 1973

Jonathan Livingston SeagullReview

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

By. Chris Ullman

Where does truth begin?

Are we trying to perceive its being or be its perception?

Intellectually, we can pose involved questions that absorb much of our time concerning the reality of truth, and delude ourselves for a lifetime thinking that we are on a projected course with truth as a target. We can discuss, illustrate, deduce, induce, syllogize, formulate, orchestrate, and even demonstrate the aspects of truth, and never realize an answer that is a permanent aspect of us. Truth's beauty is fleeting until some innate, conscious experience nappens and that experiential reality becomes timeless or classical.

The " classics." for anyone who didn't have to suffer through David Copperfield or Wuthering Heights when you were exploring the dimensions of the tenth grade, are those works that are still, and possibly always, meaningful and relative to whoever reads them regardless of the era. The book Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a classic.

J. L. S. is not a classic because of its description of higher states of consciousness, but because of its ability to touch a common cord in those who read it that resonates in a higher consciousness. It either confirms or introduces a reality to the reader that is so "close" to an actual experience or state that it becomes permanently fixed as a piece of preferred literature.

Why is it that the movie does not have this same sense of fidelity? Richard Bach wrote the book on the inspiration of a "voice" that came to him. He was strolling on the beach one night when he heard this voice say, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." He then went home and promptly wrote 17 pages of the manuscript, after which the inspiration to write more left him. Eight years later, in the early morning, he was awakened by this same voice and proceeded to finish the book. He had tried for eight years to finish the book but none of the endings seem to satisfy the questions raised in the beginning. Bach couldn't create or manufacture an answer to Jonathan's strong hunches: that there was something more than just fighting over food, or living the regular structured life of a gull in the flock. As the book was conceived, so was the book finished. Like Kahil Gibran, who had a spiritual ex-, perience when he wrote The Prophet, also Bach had a spiritual experience for the inspiration to give literary flight to Jonathan's imaginary wings.

The problem appears when an attempt is made at a transition from the imaginary wings of literature to the real wings of a filmed seagull. Hall Bartlett produced and directed the movie. The shots of waves crashing on the Pacific cliffs in the Big Sur country are beautiful and breathtaking, but impart none of the feeling, power or yearning expressed in the book. The scenery of the Sierra Nevada snow-covered mountains is beautiful, but the seagull's dialogue simply strains the imagination. Even though the human voices of the gulls are dubbed-in, in poor taste, there is great beauty in Jack Couffer's cinematic footage of land, sea and gulls. The songs and musical score done by Neil Diamond prove to be a successful distraction: the musics heavy bass sounds clumsy and detracts from the subtlety of Couffer's work.

When a person is inspired to make, produce or write a great work, taking that great work into a different form of expression always seems to lose the perspective of the original author. There has to be a shared level of consciousness between an author and director if they expect to create a movie that has the same timeless, artistic impact of the book. A prime example of this lack of shared consciousness is the cinematic attempt at making Siddhartha. Although the movie followed the life story of Siddhartha closely, grafting a major portion of the screenplay right out of the book, and even though the whole movie was shot on location at the foot of the Himalayas and on the banks of the Ganges, the movie carries very little of Hesse's underlying feeling for God-realization or his simple theme on awareness.

On the other hand, an example of a movie that is "as good as the book" is The Godfather. Mario Puzo was commissioned by M.G.M. to write a screenplay about the life and times of an Italian family which was involved in the Cosa Nostra wars in New York in the 40's. When he finished writing the screenplay, he then wrote the book. Regardless of one's taste in motion pictures, The Godfather's literary intonation is played out beautifully bringing the significance of the book accurately to the screen.

Unfortunately, the thrust of Jonathan's realizations about flying faster, farther, and higher than any other seagull never come across - just as Siddhartha's realization of the syllable "om" does not present the full meaning and impact on the screen that you feel so strongly when reading the book.

The lack of depth in the film version of J. L. S. has the possibility of being corrected. Before the film began a message came on the screen expressing the interest of the author, Bach, in changing the score and some portions of the film. Two suggestions that would better the quality of the film would be to delete the dialogue of the gulls and substitute a narration, and secondly, to delete Neil Diamond.

The score that Diamond has produced, orchestrated and sung does not illustrate Jonathan's isolation from his parents, his friends, his flock, nor from himself. The songs do little to compliment the joy and ecstasy Jonathan finds when he realizes "perfect flight" or the thought of who he is. In place of Diamond's music a blend of classical music such as Beethoven, Strauss, or Tchaikovsky could detonate the bomb of excitement that is actually felt when one does have such a profound realization. So where does truth begin? It doesn't - it just exists. And are we trying to perceive it or be its perception? Neither. We are realizing.

Love Love Love

Reprinted from Fun Times Magazine, December 1973.


He was born in Hardwar, India, on December 10, 1957.

He will be 16 years old on December 10, 1973.

Millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of teenagers and pre-teens, say that he is "a perfect master," which means someone who is able to teach the knowledge of God. They say that he is the only living "perfect master" on earth. Some of them say that he is "Lord of the Universe."

But Maharaj Ji (or just plain Raj) says: "I'm just a 15-year-old kid. They may say that about me ('Lord of the Universe'), but I don't."

Then why are so many young people crazy about Raj?

He explains it this way: "I can promise you satisfaction. You can experience bliss within."

Have his followers found this to be true? Absolutely, they say. They say it is "fantastic." They say they actually have seen "a divine light."

There is certainly something out of the ordinary about Raj. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Hindu gurus (teachers) have come to America to explain how you can achieve inner bliss, understanding, peace, serenity, etc., but almost every one of them had a beard, or anyway a lot of hair. But look at Raj. No beard. Not even a lot of hair.

Raj delivered his first lecture - or "spiritual discourse" - when he was only two and a half.

Raj's father was also a "perfect master." He died when his son was eight, and Raj inherited the title.

From then on, Raj's progress was rapid. European people - English, French - and others found out about him when he was eleven. One year later, over a million people heard him speak at New Delhi in India. The next year he came to England and then to America. Now he is here again, on what he calls "a pilgrimage for peace."

In New York, surrounded by roses and strings of rhinestones, Raj said:

"Peace, or energy, is inside everybody. It is like a watch tied to our wrist, and we are looking all around for it without seeing it."

How does he teach?

"I have a method," Raj said at the same meeting, attended by thousands at Louis Armstrong Stadium. Not everyone can use this method of teaching. Why not? "Well, it's like this. Say, for example, that there's a kid called Dick. He goes to school, right? What do they teach him at school? They teach him the alphabet --- A,B,C,D,E,F and so on. Dick feels pretty good about it. So he goes home and tries to teach the alphabet to his kid brother. He says it goes like this: A,D,F,B - Dick hasn't learned enough and so he can't teach it properly."

Raj also calls his pilgrimage a Soul Rush. "Not a Gold Rush, a Soul Rush." Thirty Jumbo jets will bring thousands of followers to hear him speak at the Houston Astrodome in November.

Raj sounds like any average kid of his age, but the effect he has on people - anyway, many people - is certainly not, average. A girl listening to him said that she "…felt complete … like nothing is missing." A boy said, "He is fantastic." Another girl wept and smiled, but explained that her tears were "tears of joy."

Raj says: "The whole world wants to have peace of mind. It doesn't matter whether they call it knowledge or God' or primordial vibration - that is what it means."

We have called him Raj, but here is his complete name: BALYOGESHWAR PARAM HANS SATGURUDEV SHRI SANT JI MAHARAJ. (The first name means Lord of yogis. The second and third names mean highest soul. The remaining names mean true dispeller of darkness and revealer of light and great king.)