A Dazzling Introduction to the Frontiers of Physics, Biochemistry, and Consciousness
About 20 years ago, I encountered quantum mechanics in The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, and the Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra. Despite the relative popularity (note the emphasis on "relative") of such books, the average person in the street has never read a science book that wasn't assigned to them in high school or college. And those books certainly weren't using the implications of quantum physics to speculate on the nature of Life, the Universe and Everything!
But I found myself very inspired by the fuzziness of the new science. It seemed to me to be showing the undefined edges of Creation, and left me with a conviction that the Universe is held together in God's imagination. That, along with many other things, helped to start me on my study of Christian mysticism and other traditions. So imagine my delight when I learned What the #$*! Do We Know? (pronounced "What the Bleep Do We Know") promised an exciting investigation into the cutting edge of science and spirituality. I couldn't wait to see interviews with people like Drs. Rupert Sheldrake, Freeman Dyson, Amit Goswami and Larry Dossey!
Well, Goswami, physicist and scholar-in-residence for the Institute of Noetic Sciences was among the experts interviewed, and although they were new to me, all the other scientists chosen seemed capable speakers on quantum weirdness. Besides physicists, there are also a number of medical researchers and psychologists interviewed, who bring interesting information on the connection between mind and matter, as well as some “spiritual teachers, mystics, and scholars.” Strangely, What the Bleep didn't identify any of the speakers until the final credits. (And only then does it become apparent why they made that choice.)
What the Bleep has a striking visual style, with razor-sharp photography, dazzling graphic effects, and it even escapes typical "documentary mode" by creating a small story of a woman encountering new dimensions in the world and herself. At times the style skirts the edge of being a little too hyper, and the directors clearly intend to go for breadth over depth. (If you want to actually learn something about the mind-blowing edges of science, a great place to start is with PBS's NOVA production,The Elegant Universe.)
The story shows Amanda, a deaf photographer, going through a couple of frustrating days as she has some surreal encounters with quantum physics. In the middle of the film, the discussion shifts briefly from subatomic physics to neurochemistry, while the story takes our heroine into a Polish wedding sequence which is so hilarious, it might have you rolling in the aisles, as I was! More importantly, some the opinions shared may be eye-opening for many viewers who have never considered the inter-connectedness of mind, the universe, and God.
The Flipside: Ramtha will see you now.
The disappointment, (which is acute), came from the aforementioned “spiritual teachers, mystics, and scholars” used. Yeah, it sounds like an impressive lot, but there were only two. One was Miceal (or Micheal) Ledwith, former prominent Catholic theologian, whose retirement from Ireland's Maynooth College in 1994 has been linked to abuse accusations (see the Irish Times article of June 1 2002). The other, a blonde woman who had more screen time than any other "expert," was revealed in the closing credits to be—get ready—RAMTHA! Yes, Ramtha, the laughable 35,000-year-old entity with the pseudo-Sanskrit name, channeled by Ms. JZ Knight. No wonder names were withheld till the end!
Both Ledwith and “Ramtha” had little to do except bash conventional religion with vague, emotional mutterings about “the shackles of restrictive doctrine.” I was left wondering why would a group of people go to the trouble of creating an otherwise impressive film about the scientific plausibility of a mystical universe, only to undercut it with sophmoric dismissals and the spoutings of the queen of New Age nuttiness? Perhaps it's because, as stated on their own FAQ page, all three filmmakers are students of Ramtha! Not only that but it turns out that Ledwith now happens now to be a lecturer for Ramtha, as well, and another expert, chiropractor and writer Joe Dispenza, is also a Ramtha student!
So it ends up being a mixed bag. It is a charming, beautiful, and entertaining introduction to quantum physics, and for thousands it may be the only glimpse they've had of mysticism. Overall, it's well worth seeing, but I just wish this had some actual spiritual substance. It's a pity. People are starving for the Wild Things of God, and are kept starving. With very rare exceptions, our teachers, preachers, priests, and imams don't teach our own deep traditions of union with God. Furthermore, half-witted schlock like The Da Vinci Code, The Celestine Prophecy, and Ramtha drowns out the voice of authentic mysticism. Ramtha will see you now. Keep your ego, but bring your checkbook.
Update, January 15, 2005. What is Enlightenment? magazine has a penetrating review of What the Bleep? online. It's excellent reading.
Here are my thoughts on the WIE review.