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The 'Bleep' Over: "What The Bleep Do We Know?"

Ramtha1_1Finally, I had some time to sit down and watch the recent docu-fanta-movie, What The Bleep Do We Know.  I say docu-fanta-movie, because this film is a unique blend of documentary, movie, and fantasy.  But the unique "blending" that this film is comprised of doesn't stop here.  The producers of What The Bleep Do We Know have embarked upon a cultural phenomenon that we will no doubt see much more of in the future: the blending of science with New Age spirituality.

The affinity between quantum physics and postmodernity has long been attested to.  And the contemporary and widespread interest in spirituality has also been observed as our culture's response to the failure of The Enlightenment project -- of modernity's inability to deliver on its promise to cure the problems of our world and deliver a reliable hope for our future.  Science no longer reigns supreme in today's culture as THE guardian of truth.  This is likely a disturbing thought, no doubt, to secular scientists, and I'm not all that surprised that, while continuing to discredit organized religion (Christianity in particular), some scientists are becoming bedfellows with New Age religion, in an attempt to integrate the legitimacy of scientific advances with the popular appeal of mystical spirituality.  And that is exactly what What The Bleep Do We Know appears to be doing.

Now, the science being presented in the film is very interesting -- quantum mechanics, string theory, and recent advances in neurological studies.  The film makers have done a fascinating job of presenting fairly complex concepts in an entertaining and easy-to-grasp manner.  But what especially bothered me was the way What The Bleep crosses the line between science and mysticism, presenting everything as equally true.  And that is why...

This is a disturbingly misleading film.

I am one of many bloggers who have drawn attention to the syncretism found within the Church -- and the evangelical Church in particular.  But here in this film, is a good example of how syncretism is a characteristic of our entire culture paradigm.  Ours is a postmodern world, and we should expect to find syncretism (among many other things) in all sectors of our world.

What is especially telling about What The Bleep Do We Know, is how the producers have featured the wisdom of the supposed 35,000 yr. old god of Atlantis -- Ramtha -- as "channeled" through Anerican, J.Z. Knight, AND have done so in a way which places this "ancient wisdom" on equal par with their panel of Ph.D's, M.D.'s, and the like.  This is almost beyond belief.

But the most striking thing about What The Bleep Do We Know, is the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) arrogance which characterizes the film's message: we are our own gods, who can (in ways consistent with various scientific theories) control not only our future destinies, but our present realities.

I strongly suspect that many more films of this type will be produced in the years to come.  Hollywood knows that our culture is thirsty for spirituality.  Hollywood has also long been known for the way it commonly discredits and criticizes organized religion, especially Christianity.  We therefore need a new generation of apologists to arise within the body of Christ to engage this culture in thoughtful and effective ways.  Our modern techniques will no longer serve this purpose.  We need scientific theologians and theological scientists to help us navigate our way through the times ahead that will continue to challenge our ancient and most holy faith.

If you haven't seen this film, I urge you to.  And if you have, I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts regarding what I've shared here.

*for an interesting critique of the film, go here, or read my friend's newspaper review at Cinema In Focus.


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Hi Chris-
My best friend saw the film. She has wonderful insight into things in films that amazes me- sees not only the obvious but also with great depth. (She is the reviewer Whitewave at HollywoodJesus.)

Anyway, she was telling me that she didn't like it, because she felt the message that it was giving was something like, "Come on, folks- we have all this knowledge/power, so let's harness it in order to relieve our own personal suffering." Not so much helping needy people in the world, but a very hedonistic attitude that repelled and angered her, along with not really needing God or anything "spiritual". One of the reasons she is a Christian is that God knows suffering -the outworking of "original sin" that is also the common human condition- and indeed went all the way into that suffering to depths we will never know.

"When Jesus tells us about the Father we distrust him. When he shows us his Home, we turn away, but when he confides to us that he is acquainted with Grief, we listen, for that also is an Acquaintance of our own." -Emily Dickinson


The film has spawned "What the Bleep" discussion groups in my area, and a local woman has become an evangelist for the film and its teachings -- she was featured in a big spread in the paper. I find it fascinating that these ancient "sources of wisdom" like Ramtha, or American indian spiritual practices, or Druidism, are all gaining so many followers.

One of the things these "faiths" have in common is they are practiced in a very self-affirming way. You are affirmed in your life choices, in your goodness and worth, and the goal is not to be transformed into something new, but to find harmony with yourself as your are, and with the "life forces" that are all around us.

And with "What the Bleep" particularly, you are being shown mysteries that few are privy to. I think of the appeal of the DaVinci Code, and the movie National Treasure, and the great interest in the paranormal -- there's something about being allowed to understand deep mysteries that draws people into these New Age spirituality movements. Mystery is very sexy.

The church needs to understand the appeal of these new spiritual movements to be able to effectively point people towards the Truth.

I was glad that you were able to finally watch it. You have done a great job (like usual) to put into far better words what many us feel than we are able to do ourselves.

Here's some info on Ramtha that I found:

Ramtha, too, has a liking for Elizabethan accented
platitudes, despite having apparently
lived in Lemuria and Atlantis. However, “he” fared
badly in predicting a series of natural disasters
that didn’t happen (California and Florida did not
fall into the ocean, and acid rain did not poison
New England’s water supply). Followers who had
shifted house to be safe were not happy with him.
Then Knight was served an injunction; she’d been
telling followers that Ramtha recommended they
buy her Arabian horses, at up to US$250,000
each. Knight was discovered practicing Ramtha
voices, and then Ramtha began making homophobic
comments. Small wonder that Ramtha’s popularity
has waned in recent years. (http://www.skeptics.org.nz/download/flychannel.pdf)

I haven't seen the film, and I probably won't. As a longtime resident of the northwestern US, I've known of JZ Knight and Ramtha for more than two decades. I think it's safe to say that gnosticism and new age spirituality are alive and well, and probably always will be.

In this case, the messenger is very definitely worth considering, as you consider the point of the movie.

I keep wondering why there has been no one in the Christian faith to step into the shoes of Francis Schaeffer. Yes, Schaeffer still speaks through his writings, but we need a contemporary person of like brilliance who can personally confront the stupidity and vacuousness of today's society with intelligence and the Word of God.

No one seems to be taking up that mantle and it disturbs me.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film when eventually it arrives in Britain, although I wonder whether it will make it; it's hard to think that it would do well here. I'm really hoping for footage that I can use in my lectures and seminars on New Age and Post-modern spirituality!
Dana's mediated crit is really helpful, thanks. The advance publicity [website etc] seems to be setting it up as very 'Shirley MacLean'. However, one of the things I will be looking out for is the way that science is used/co-opted in the implicit argument of the film. It's usually quite a revealing exercise to note the love/hate relationship with science in such things. Does that crop up at all?

from what Whitewave told me, it's very much a "love" relationship with science; not so much "hate". Not having seen it myself, I can't confirm. As for the spirituality angle, that didn't make as much of an impression on her as the scientific. From comments above, it all sounds gnostic-like. Nothing new under the sun.

Great comments everyone! Andii, I too appreciated Dana's perspective, and would definitely agree with Charlie that "The church needs to understand the appeal of these new spiritual movements to be able to effectively point people towards the Truth".

This, held in balance with what Dan (DLE) has pointed out (i.e. the need for great minds to engage the culture today) would seem to be best.

P.S. Bill -- I appreciated the various points of info re: Ramtha (you made me laugh).

I think it's spot-on to be saying that we need to be engaging at a deep level with the underlying world-views of this stuff. It needs a CS Lewis kind of analysis: penetrating yet popular [after all a lot of this stuff is 'consumed' at a popular level]. One of hte reasons I do the occasional teaching/learning event in NAM spirituality is because I think we have a lot to learn from these 'weathervanes' of popular spirituality.

One of the interesting [to me] reflections, is to pick up Dana's 'gnosticism' comment. Yes it is very often and exlicitly gnostic themes are very popular in NAM [less so in Wicca etc], yet a lot of the language and thinking is also holistic/integralist; how's that for a paradox. I have occasionally played them off against one another with New Agers, usually deconstructing gnostic ideas by appealing to a holistic approach [which I think is more Christ-friendly].

To bring some balanced perspective to the conversation guys, let's not go the route that the Church has taken in the past and just write the entire film off either. Too many of us have done this too many times: i.e. last temptation of Christ, DaVinci Code, etc. etc.

Spiritual hunger is alive and well in our world today, but we need to think about the best ways of feeding the words of truth.

I'm afraid too many christians will not see how much value they could learn from the film and I'm also cautious that the same hungry people who feast on this movie don't want to tase anything we might offer b/c of our approach.

Keep up the great work Chris, and congrats on next wave.

*what follows are comments which were emailed to a dear friend of mine after he had encouraged a friend of his in the film "business" to visit Paradoxology and read my post concerning "What the Bleep Do We Know?" Upon my request, this friend of my friend granted permission to post his response anonymously -- for which I am very grateful (thank you!). This is a perspective which needs to be heard,and its likely that many folks feel the same way this person does. I post these remarks -- not for the purpose of necessarily challenging what has been shared or believed -- but in order to better inform and sensitize us to the real sentiments that real people are embracing about such things outside of our respective tribes. -- DP

Wow. What a twisting of what that movie is about. I love the quote that the movie basically tells people that you don't need God. Well, YES IT DOES!...at least from the standpoint that you don't need God to help make you feel better. Most people live their lives making God responsible for their feelings. That's my question to Christians: if you were never upset again, what would you need God for? What is your faith REALLY about? This movie makes stupid group-think Christians scared because they don't want to take responsibility for their actions...they want God to fix them. God's bigger than that, and the movie clearly spells out simple scientific truths about how to stop being upset, create the life you were made for, stop blaming God, and get on with your life. Is it truth? No. But does it work? Yes. Is it heresy? No. Now, I don't agree with EVERYTHING it says, but it sure beats the crap out of what's preached from the pulpit everyday. I'm disheartened by these people's arrogance, commitment to mediocrity in their lives, and insistence that they know best about how to live life powerfully...not serve Christ...live life. The Bible supports nearly everything in What the Bleep, why doesn't the church support the Bible?

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