Sunday, 6 March 2011

More Hollywood Psi

I just saw a preview of the new Clint Eastwood movie Hereafter. It seemed to me that Eastwood has a sincere interest in NDEs and medium communication but the movie came off as naive to me. Like many other popularized treatments of the subject, the medium was morose and haunted. That all by itself is a serious problem when compared to actual mediums like John Edward or James van Praagh. He then compounds this problem by doing the same thing to his NDE representative (who to my irritation spoke French that was rendered into Dutch subtitles that I barely understood).

Just because relatives of deceased persons can be morose as a reaction doesn't mean that mediums and people who have NDEs are also morose. My impression is the exact opposite. There may be outliers, but the people I am aware of seem to be not just well-adjusted, but even more positive than would be considered average.

I think the problem is that the popular notion of things psychic conflates the reaction of grieving family members and the craziness of frauds with genuine psychics or genuine psychic experience. The Sixth Sense did this too. They had the little boy seeing gruesome images of death everywhere and he was frightened as a result. The problem is that spirits do not normally show themselves that way and anyone who sees this kind of thing customarily is more likely than not going to become inured to it and will not find it frightening at all.

Inception was an attempt to explore lucid dreaming. It did so in a highly unrealistic way by creating mechanical contrivances to limit the dream state in ways that make more sense in the context of materialism. It also made lucid dreams into something much greater than they are: a glorified version of a typical dream fantasy. If they wanted to explore dreams, it is a pity they didn't go after something with a paranormal element.

Audrey Rose from the 1970's is a bout a girl who relives the fiery death of her previous incarnation. The movie is a pretty standard horror movie, but as an explanation of past life memories it is pretty week. Ironically, the screenwriter for the movie got the idea after his son started mentioning his own past life memories at a very early age and he managed to track down who the previous personality was. The true story was far more interesting than the screenplay he wrote. Strangely, the author didn't just change a few names while retaining the core experience he knew of firsthand from his son, instead he made it over completely in the image of existing expectations among people who not only knew nothing about the experience but who disbelieved in it. In other words, while his inspiration was a real experience, the product was based on the state of his knowledge prior to the personal experience. This was done to appeal to people who weren't familiar with or willing to accept the subject as it really is.

The shame of this is that if writers and entertainers continue censoring this content to appeal to existing tastes, they not only create those tastes but also present a large and powerful body of false literature on the subject. As a debunking exercise you can hardly do worse than make a bunch of filmed entertainment that makes no sense.

Psi is not a completely unpopular subject in Hollywood, but the way it is portrayed is like an alternate form of psi, something that could literally be called "alt-psi" because it certainly is not psi. Movies like Premonition, Precognition, Carrie, The Amityville Horror, The Shining, and many others all contribute to a laughably false caricature of psi experience. It shouldn't be any wonder with these movies and the many books like them that parapsychologists have so much deprogramming to do before they get around to discussing the subjects of their research.

For anyone with a serious interest in the subject the first step is always to counter the pile of false programming, like so many mounds of leftover Carnival trash, before getting to the real subject. Unfortunately, the trash just keeps on coming.

It is possible to insulate oneself from the effect for awhile, either by working quietly in a lab or keeping one's experiences to oneself, but as soon as they are public the battle with the public's misconceptions begins.

The debate about brain-based NDEs is an example. So pervasive is the mind=brain propaganda that it is hard to let go of the notion when the most visible evidence from the other side is coming from places like Eastwood's Hereafter. It isn't that I think he was insincere. In fact, he was possibly more careful than many others who have attempted to deal with paranormal subjects in film. Unfortunately he still makes some big errors that cannot help but erode credibility for the point he is trying to make. Rather than present a fictionalized story of an NDE and a medium, he would have been better served by making a movie about the real thing. It couldn't possibly be the same kind of movie, but at least it wouldn't add to the confusion that already exists.



  1. Andy,

    So much of what we see in the media affects how people react to psychic experiences. I read Stephen King's Carrie around the age of 10, and that image of pk has always stayed with me and terrified me. I know it isn't based on true situations, but it still bothers me and makes me feel like a potential monster.

    Around the same age I had an experience of seeing a "ghost" (probably a place memory) of a woman's face in the mirror of an antique dresser that my mom had wanted to put in my room. If I had been brought up to know such experiences were harmless, I wouldn't have made a fuss. But having been to slumber parties and hearing about "Bloody Mary", a ghostly woman who appears in mirrors and scratches her victims eyes out, I was terrified. My mom thought I was totally being unreasonable when I refused to sleep in any room containing that particular piece of furniture, but I couldn't be convinced to allow it to be placed in my room.

  2. That reminds me of how frightened I was by my mom's description of the Zodiak killer back when I was a kid living in Redwood City, near San Francisco. I don't think I ever saw a ghost back thing, but I do think we should respect a child's fears if for no other reason but to avoid terrorizing them unnecessarily.

    When my wife and I were looking at houses in Maine once, we were shown a house that I swear had some evil associated with it. I was positive someone had been killed on the property. To this day it gives me the creeps when I think about it. I asked the realtor to get us out of there almost as soon as we got out of the car. Brr...