There is no nearness or kinship equal to that of the soul with God, and God with souls. He placed in the soul understanding, will, a sovereign mind. And He enthroned in the soul yet another great refinement, and made it easily moved, light-winged, indefatigable, granting it to come and go in a single instant and in thought to serve Him, when the Spirit wishes. In a word, He created it so that it might become a bride and companion of Him, as has been said: “He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” with the Lord (I Cor. 6:17) – from “The Teaching of St. Macarius the Great,” by I.M. Kontzevitch, Orthodox Word, Vol. 10, no. 3, July-August, 1974.
I wanted to start with this beautiful patristic wisdom about the soul to remind us of why we are talking about so many terrible and dreary things. It’s not because Orthodox Christians want to be curious about bad things – the Holy Fathers teach us not to indulge such curiosity. It’s because these bad things are already influencing us – they are already on our doorstep, in our homes, in our souls. And it is the soul that we are concerned about, the salvation of the soul, the union of the soul with God. When we read beautiful passages like the one above, we are recalled to ourselves. We remember for what we were made, and how pure and beautiful we can become. Yet we also know that we allow so many dirty influences into our lives – so much worldliness, falsehood, impurity, and degradation! The purpose of our “Survival Course” is not to wallow in the bad things, to talk about them endlessly, which is what a lot of well-meaning people do nowadays. The purpose of our course is to help us to recognize and abjure the false, the evil, and the ugly, and turn to the true, the good, and the beautiful. As it says in Psalm 33, we must “turn from evil and do good.” If we must study evil – and, sadly, we must – it is not an end in itself, but a preliminary step to doing good. To do good to others, we must cleanse our own souls first from the delusions planted in them by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Our current topic is the world of Hollywood – cinema, the movies. Last time we pointed out how even in the “good old days” of “wholesome” movies the cinema was a mighty tool for brainwashing the masses into becoming not simply post-Christian people but even “post-human humans” through the destruction of the family, of traditional community, life, traditional morality, and so forth. Hollywood is a giant delusion machine. Once you start living in the world it portrays, you are no longer in reality – you are living in a hall of mirrors. If you are serious about your spiritual life, if you realize that to be saved you must cleanse your soul of illusion, of delusion, then you come to the conclusion that movie-watching, TV watching, etc, must be done very carefully, if at all. Frankly, our lives would be much richer if we never watched any video and used that time to read, sing, tell stories, take walks, and do a lot of other things people used to do in their spare time. Whatever enrichment comes from the screen is so little and outweighed so much by other, more traditional activities, that in the balance we would gain a great deal by abjuring the cinema and television altogether, except perhaps for serious instructional videos or good musical performances. I know, however, that most of us simply are not going to do this, and I want at least to give an Orthodox interpretation of “what’s out there” in order to help us at least be on our guard, be selective of what we watch, and be highly critical of it. In this session, I’d like to cover five topics: Subliminal messages, predictive programming, the normalization of the obscene, the brainwashing of children, the destruction of rational thought and attention span, and initiation into the occult.
A. Subliminal messages are real: Let’s return to the thought we began with tonight: Nothing is more precious than the soul, nothing more urgent than guarding the soul. Yet movies not only deliver false messages and evil and ugly images to our conscious minds, they also contain subliminal messages. I had heard about subliminal advertising as a young man in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and we were told that it was something tried back in the 1950’s but then outlawed, and that it did not happen any more. Then one evening I was watching a movie in a theater, and at one point the projector malfunctioned and slowed down. Suddenly, instead of the movie one saw a young woman immodestly dressed, smiling seductively while holding a bag of popcorn and a soft drink. Pavlovian conditioning at work! So this is real: You really have no idea what kind of commercial or political or social engineering images or messages are being slipped into the movies you are watching, messages that are completely under the “radar screen” of your consciousness. This alone should make one highly cautious about movie-watching.
B. Predictive programming: We know that the occult global elite – the “cryptocracy” – is creating the “new humanity” that will embrace the disordered social order of the Antichrist. This institutionalized disorder is coming into being all around us. At each stage of the process, the cryptocracy acts secretly at first, but then, when they believe that the masses are ready to accept their message, they reveal what they have been up to, what they have already done to us. This gives them a malicious feeling of satisfaction (and, remember, they are demonized and therefore have the sadistic minds of demons) and also serves a practical function in the Revolution – it creates “predictive programming,” that is, it “programs” the minds of the masses to accept that this or that social change may be something unpleasant or even evil, but that it is inevitable and, therefore, though one may cheer the cinema hero who fights the evil, one sees the evil as a normal part of life, not something utterly bizarre, unthinkable, or outlandish. One accepts it as part of the “ying-yang” of an amoral universe.
One example of this “predictive programming” is the series of movies based on a character called Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin whose memory and identity have been destroyed by brainwashing, and who has been programmed to kill people upon being “activated” by certain “triggers.” The frightening reality is that the CIA had (and has?) just such a program, called MK-Ultra, which did (does?) precisely this. The mass of moviegoers watching these movies don’t really care about the horrendous social implications of such a revelation. They are just cheering on the heroes, Jason Bourne and his allies as they try to recover their real identities and atone for their past crimes by exposing the big, bad guy, the CIA. What the moviegoers don’t realize is that they are being programmed too, not to accept that the CIA are the “good guys,” but that this kind of thing, though it may be distasteful, is normal, that it is part of life.
The Matrix is probably the most paradigmatic example of predictive programming, the one that has become what is called a “cultural icon.” It depicts a future world in which super-intelligent machines have reduced all of humanity to inert, completely passive beings hooked up to serve the machines as an energy source and kept entertained by having an illusory world projected into their brains. A few people escape the “Matrix” and try to fight back, and this forms the basis of the plot. Again, even if the audience cheers those fighting the Matrix, as they cheered Jason Bourne fighting the CIA, the world depicted in the movie is normalized. It is, of course, an image of what has already been done to everyone, of the reduction of vast masses of potentially creative and intelligent – not to mention religious – people to “couch potatoes” or screen “junkies.”
Both the Bourne movies and The Matrix, and other movies like it, do identify the Cryptocracy, the evil power structure, as evil, but both do so in the context of a dualistic, ultimately meaningless and endless universe, in which the lonely hero is doomed to fight forever. There is no ultimate hope and no ultimate escape.
C. The normalization of the obscene: In earlier classes, we have talked about the concept of the obscene. The term does not necessarily denote something dirty or even negative; rather it means something so sacred or so profane that it should not be seen or spoken of in public. It is to be kept literally ob scena, “away from the stage,” whether the stage of the theater or the stage of life. The entire media machine, the entire “Great Stereopticon” we have been describing, starting with the newspapers, has done catastrophic damage to formerly Christian peoples’ understanding of the obscene. I am not speaking only of explicitly sexual subject matter, though that is included, of course. Another subject considered by the ancients to be obscene is any kind of extreme human suffering, the depiction of which was banned altogether or handled very delicately in Greek drama. Now we have thousands of movies, usually around two hours’ long, that depict human suffering – both physical and psychological – in excruciating detail, that wallow in it. This is horrible – it does not create compassion in the viewers but rather the opposite: it coarsens them. Someone else’s suffering, whether real or fictional, should never be a source of entertainment but rather should always be held in reverence. Another obscene subject was the dead human body – traditionally the body is handled with great decorum and reverence, and it is shown in public only within carefully regulated and traditional rituals. Yet now we have thousands of hours of movies and TV shows in which dead bodies are shown in every conceivable state of degradation, and examined callously by police investigators, forensic investigators, and so forth. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized – it is the breaking down of a very sacred, very ancient barrier, a transgression that is profoundly evil, that makes something “snap” inside of people, leading them to a lower level of humanity. This is no joke. And obviously the vortex of filthy language and filthy sexual behavior in the “average” movie long ago transgressed the traditional boundaries of the obscene.
All of this transgression of the boundaries of the obscene has so coarsened the “average” person that converting non-Orthodox people (or Orthodox people to repentance and conscious spiritual life) has become incalculably more difficult, for the most fundamental healthy human reactions to essential human experiences – suffering, death, language, sexual behavior – have been destroyed.
D. The brainwashing of children: In 1989, after a hiatus of many years in which they had produced no feature length animated movies, Disney Studios premiered their re-interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. In Andersen’s original telling of the story, the Little Mermaid is punished for her unnatural desire to become a human being. She does not win the man she loves and becomes something neither mermaid nor woman, but a bodiless spirit floating on the wind, a fitting metaphor for someone who has rejected his God-given nature. In the Disney version, however the Little Mermaid rejects her father’s authority, rejects her nature, makes a deal with a witch to change her into a human being, and after a bit of scary trouble in order to give the story some dramatic tension, gets away with it! The message is clear: Disobey your father, deny your God-given nature, obey your passions, and thrive! Since that time, Disney has produced one movie after another featuring headstrong girls who transgress traditional boundaries and come out on top. The occult and feminist message – the message of witchcraft, of “the goddess” who is stronger than traditional patriarchal authority by means of her magical powers – could not be clearer. Normally, of course, in the “cute,” Disney style, the heroine does not hate or destroy her father, who is usually a lovable bumbler, impotent not evil – she may in fact rescue him or at least be reconciled to him. But it is clear who is in charge. And this series of beloved movies, stretching back thirty years now, seen by millions of children – and their parents, partners in crime with the studio – is only one example of the ceaseless barrage of brainwashing aimed at children seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.
If you want your children to save their souls, you have to understand the real message of what they are watching…and take action!
E. Destruction of rational thought and attention span: Even when a two hour movie has a serious plot and rational dialogue, it disarranges one’s idea of the normal: after all, life’s problems are not solved in two hours. But increasingly we now have movies and television shows which have little or no plot or dialogue, but rather consist of very short scenes often – depending on the genre – consisting of or at least assisted by outlandish computer generated images and special effects, often only a few seconds in length, depicting some kind of violence or bizarre behavior, perhaps with a few telegraphic, disjointed utterances by the characters involved. The viewer’s mind is assaulted with a rapid, endless succession of violent, disturbing imagery, and there is simply no room for rational thought or the development of a real story or real ideas. The universe presented in these movies is not a “cosmos” – an ordered world – but a chaotic and meaningless world of disconnected, rapid sense experiences. This is part of the campaign to destroy linear, rational thinking and replace it with “thinking” in visual images and feelings, thus vastly increasing people’s susceptibility to being conditioned and manipulated.
E. Initiation into the occult: We have earlier discussed theater as an initiation into the Dionysian spirit. It’s very important to remember that all drama has a ritual character. You may think you are simply being “entertained,” but in fact you are being initiated ritually into some kind of transformative mystery, a life-changing crisis and resolution, in which “higher powers” of some kind play a part. This is true, in general, of all drama – it’s the origin and rationale of drama, as we have discussed earlier. But there are some movies – perhaps a large number – whose creators have purposely constructed in order to brainwash the audience with occult symbolism and occult messages. Sometimes this is overt, though usually it is hidden in some way, under the surface of the story. This should not surprise us, since we know that the movie industry is controlled by an anti-Christian power structure that is deeply involved in the occult. A remarkably intelligent young man, an American convert to Orthodoxy named Jay Dyer, has written two books on this subject. I’ve been asked by some of our listeners to comment on Mr. Dyer’s work, since he is very popular now with the younger “conservative” or “traditionalist” Internet audience, including many Orthodox believers.
First of all, we have to separate Dyer’s substance from his style. I would suggest that one read some of the articles on his website first, and especially the ones having little to do with movies or conspiracies or politics. Rather, read his articles on philosophy and theology, which are for the most part quite good, even, in some places, I would venture to say brilliant. In particular, for Roman Catholics considering converting to Orthodoxy, his exposition of the errors in Roman Catholic theology are extremely good.
Mr. Dyer’s style in his videos is often silly and vulgar, and in some places he uses language unacceptable for an Orthodox Christian. In street parlance, he is what is called a “shock jock,” a media personality who attracts attention through coarseness of expression. He also wastes a lot of time on silliness, but that, along with the vulgarity, is, I suppose, what appeals to a lot of people today. I venture to say that he has developed this onscreen persona to convey that he is “for real,” that he is not a fake, not a phony pseudo-intellectual snob, but a down to earth guy with a real message for the “millennial” generation that is fed up with the quite real hypocrisy and emptiness of their “Baby Boomer” parents. Unfortunately, the result is that a mature person with any refinement of mind can take Dyer either only in small doses or, if he perseveres for the sake of the often excellent content, with frequent inner revulsion at the presentation. A young Orthodox man who is a “Millennial” once tried watching him on my recommendation, and he turned the video off after five minutes, because the style was so crude.
So…what about Jay Dyer and the occult messages in the movies? I hate to tell you not to buy his two books on the subject, because that is part of his income, and one never wants to take the bread out of another man’s mouth. However, as a priest and spiritual father, I really can’t recommend that one wallow in the occult for very long. Try reading some of his articles on his website in which he demonstrates the occult nature of various “mainstream” movies, and I think you’ll get the picture (no pun intended!) after a few articles. He certainly has convinced me – not that I needed much convincing – that Hollywood is a giant cabal of occultists initiating the masses into demonic experiences and thought patterns, and, moreover, doing this in cooperation with certain agencies of the United States government. I’ll leave it at that.