Jim Carrey turned 59 on Sunday – could this be the year he finally steps into the role of the late psychedelic visionary Terence McKenna?
Given that it’s fake news, not likely. Still, the rumor has persisted in psychedelic circles since it first cropped up in 2017, with media outlets confidently claiming that Carrey accepted the role of the intrepid psychonaut in a biopic named after McKenna’s 1994 book True Hallucinations.
According to spurious quotes attributed to Carrey, the actor prepared by taking 5 grams – what McKenna famously dubbed the “heroic dose” – of magic mushrooms in nature, where he supposedly “saw things no human being has ever seen before, and no other human being will ever see again.”
In 2017, a rep for Carrey told Gossip Cop that the actor had “not signed on” for the biopic, and that “any quotes attributed to him about experimenting with psychedelics are absolutely false.”
If Carrey were truly preparing for the role, he may have acquainted himself with McKenna’s work enough to know that the ethnobotanist recommended taking the heroic dose in a dark and silent room, with your eyes closed. And there’s no way of knowing whether he’d have the hubris to claim visions of things no person has or will ever see, since humans have been ingesting psychoactive substances since prehistoric times.
While nothing more than a rumor, the claim likely gained traction because of how believable it was. Carrey has never publicly discussed using psychedelics, but his open talk about ego dissolution and the illusion of the self align with the revelations that can occur during acid trips and ayahuasca ceremonies, leading many in the psychedelic world to assume that Carrey is, as Jimi Hendrix once put it, experienced. Of course, it is certainly possible that mind-manifesting substances played no role in his spiritual journey. Nonetheless, various Reddit threads correlate Carrey with psychedelics, and even Joe Rogan believes psychedelics might inform Carrey’s outlook.
“He’s taken a severe psychological and I guess philosophical turn, where he’s just thought about life and things – he must have had some psychedelic experiences, too. He’s just talking about what matters and what doesn’t matter,” Rogan said on The Joe Rogan Experience. “He’s not talking like Jim Carrey, the world famous A-list actor who’s had gigantic smash movies. He’s not talking like that at all. He’s talking like some guy that’s just trying to sort of understand his place in the universe.”
Man on the Moon: Jim Carrey Loses Himself in Andy Kaufman
If Jim Carrey were to play Terence McKenna, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s embodied a visionary figure in a biopic.
In 1999, Carrey took on the role of the late “anti-comedian” Andy Kaufman in “Man on the Moon,” a film about the life and still-debated death of the notoriously enigmatic entertainer. Kaufman shifted between an endlessly rotating menagerie of bizarre characters, blurring the line between performance and reality, and keeping audiences in a perpetual state of confusion. The effect of his trickery was so powerful that his lung cancer diagnosis, which ended his life at 35 years old, was met with skepticism by fans and friends alike. To this day there are many who maintain that Kaufman’s death was a hoax, and that the performer is alive and well, possibly in New Mexico, far from the trappings of fame.
In “Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond,” the 2017 documentary about the making of “Man on the Moon” through Carrey’s eyes, the actor, sporting a full beard à la McKenna himself, shares his attempt to telepathically communicate with Kaufman after finding out he’d landed the part.
“Andy Kaufman showed up, tapped me on the shoulder, and said ‘Sit down. I’ll be doing my movie.’ What happened afterwards was completely out of my control,” says Carrey.
Inhabiting the essence of such a mercurial trickster, whose “true” self precariously flickered among his myriad personas, was spiritually transformative for Carrey, who employed method acting to immerse, and lose, himself in the role. Carrey maintained character throughout the duration of the shoot, interacting only as Kaufman and his infamously vulgar character, Tony Clifton. In the process of becoming one with Kaufman, the divide between the two began to dissolve, an experience that rattled Carrey’s sense of attachment to his identity.
In a 2017 interview with Variety, Carrey describes the disorienting aftermath of shooting the film, saying, “At the end of it, looking for Jim Carrey again, and having trouble finding him… at a certain point I realized hey wait a second, you know, if it’s so easy to lose Jim Carrey – who the hell is Jim Carrey?”
He goes on to say that filming “Man on the Moon” was one of a series of awakenings in his life.
Writer and meditation facilitator Kimberly Hetherington likens Jim Carrey’s experience shooting “Man on the Moon” to a “peak experience,” as identified by psychologist Abraham Maslow, which transpersonal psychology pioneers Stanislav and Christina Grof describe as a “dissolution of personal boundaries and a sense of becoming one with other people, with nature, or with the entire universe.”
Jim Carrey and the Illusion of the Self
In the 20 years since shooting the Kaufman biopic, Carrey has been vocal with the public about his ideas on the self – or lack thereof.
In a video recorded and produced by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle at the 2009 Inaugural GATE (Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment) Event, Carrey shares a spiritual revelation with audience members. He describes how, after months of studying with Tolle, he woke up and suddenly understood how thought was an “illusory thing,” responsible for much of human suffering.
“And then, I suddenly felt like I was looking at these thoughts from another perspective. And I wondered, who is it that’s aware that I’m thinking? And 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 a universe – I was the universe,” says Carrey.
The illusory nature of self and identity is a recurring theme with Carrey. In an interview with The Talks, conducted after the release of the retrospective documentary, he says, “…everything I am doing creatively right now seems to point to the awareness of a lack of self. What are we? Why are we here? And the answer to both of those questions is: nothing, no reason, as far as I am concerned. It’s just about playing with form.”
The dissolution of boundaries between one’s self and the universe is a key feature of many psychedelic experiences. Reports have shown that psychedelics can induce ego dissolution, where the subjective sense of self fades away, and the user feels at one with everyone. A study of participants taking ayahuasca in a traditional ceremonial setting found that ego dissolution correlated with positive mental health benefits, such as satisfaction with life and mindfulness.
The revelation around the egoic construct may have been therapeutic for Jim Carrey, who has been diagnosed with depression and prescribed Prozac in the past.
In a 2004 episode of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Carrey said that while Prozac helped for a bit, he had to eventually get off of it – and everything else. “I rarely drink coffee. I’m very serious about no alcohol, no drugs. Life is too beautiful.”
When asked about his religious beliefs, Carrey responded: “I’m a Buddhist, I’m a Muslim, I’m a Christian. I’m whatever you want me to be. It all comes down to the same thing. … You are either in a loving place, or you are in an unloving place. If you are with me right now, you cannot be unhappy. It’s not possible, just try.”
An inspirational video montage by Absolute Motivation features a voice-over of Carrey saying, “Happy place is realizing that you’re everything and there’s no real you involved in the first place.”
While Carrey may genuinely be in his happy place, some have questioned the state of Carrey’s mental health.
Jim Carrey Gets Philosophical at New York Fashion Week
In September 2017, Carrey made headlines when he gave an unorthodox red carpet interview at the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party, one of the most highly anticipated New York Fashion Week events.
Approached by E! News’s Catt Sadler, Carrey wasted no time with small talk, immediately informing her that the event was “the most meaningless thing” he could find, and that neither he nor her were real. Nonplussed, Sadler attempted to steer the dialogue back to some semblance of convention. Carrey, however, lost no momentum as he continued to deride the event’s focus on celebrating icons, at one point briefly slipping in and out of an impromptu James Brown impression.
Sadler reminded Carrey that he himself is an artistic icon. “I don’t believe in icons, I don’t believe in personalities,” Carrey responded. “I believe that peace lies beyond personalities, beyond invention and disguise, beyond the red ‘S’ you wear on your chest, that makes bullets bounce off. I believe that it’s deeper than that. I believe we’re a field of energy dancing for itself.”
The spectacle invoked the chaotic spirit of Andy Kaufman, and it may not be a coincidence that this occurred shortly before the release of “Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond.”
It is also reminiscent of Bill Hicks, another late, visionary comedian, who brazenly espoused taking psychedelics and “squeegeeing” one’s third eye in the era of Nancy Reagen’s “Just Say No” campaign. Carrey’s talk of everyone being a field of energy is similar to a classic Hicks bit: “All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration… we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.”
After the interview, a number of media outlets called Carrey “unhinged,” “bizarre,” “nihilistic,” and “cringe-worthy.” Forbes surmised that, given his history with depression and his struggle to find stability amidst his fame, the interview was a sign that Carrey wasn’t “in a good place.” There may be weight to this claim – in 2015, Carrey’s girlfriend committed suicide, and her family sued Carrey for allegedly providing her with the drugs she used to overdose. The lawsuit has since been dismissed.
Yoga therapist and author Matthew Remski questioned the authenticity of Carrey’s spiritual awakening in a blog post, reminding readers that Carrey is an actor who could “just be playing another role, reading another script.” To Remski, Carrey’s awakening is performative, his “all-knowing gaze” an example of the “theatre of spirituality” that convinces audiences he’s the real deal through visual cues and gestures that, according to Remski, are the domain of conventionally attractive white cis-men.
“The theatre of spirituality is visually intensive, culturally constructed, gendered by the male gaze, and has strongly ableist undertones. It is amplified and confounded by celebrity,” writes Remski.
Remski also criticized the actor for his aggressive treatment of Sadler. “I can’t imagine a single non-cis-gendered male celebrity who would do what Carrey did to Sadler,” writes Remski, who adds that Carrey’s attitude of “being above” the meaningless of everything is a marker of privilege. “It’s a performance that offers toxic masculinity in the form of spiritual comedy.”
A few months after the Harper’s Bazaar party, Carrey elaborated on the confounding interaction for The Wrap.
“Who’s Jim Carrey?” he asks. “Oh yeah, he doesn’t exist. There’s just a relative manifestation of consciousness appearing, and then somebody gave him a bunch of ideas; a name, a religion, and a nationality, and he clustered those together into something that is supposed to be a personality.”
Image: Netflix / YouTube