Category Archives: Inception

Movies for New Agers: Inception

What is the most resilient parasite? An Idea.

The Academy Awards are this weekend. Now given that Nolan has twice been robbed of directing Oscars for directing two of the greatest films of the past decade (
Dark Knight and Inception) I don’t hold too much hope that this near completely irrelevant award show will have the good sense to admit the basic truth that Inception was unquestionably the greatest film of the year (okay maybe not unquestionably, I can see how an argument for The King’s Speech or The Town might work, but I still think Inception is superior hands down).
Reality is that the Academy is probably going to show it continues to be out of its mind and give the Best Picture award to something like
The Social Network (who in their right mind would want to watch a movie about Facebook?).

However, Inception is not just a great movie in its own right; it is also a wonderful film that demonstrates many of the themes and ideas of New Age belief. Now I’m not sure Chris Nolan is actually sympathetic to the ideas of New Age thought; nor am I saying that the movie is arguing that these ideas are true—however, whatever Nolan’s intent, the film does allow for several ideas of New Age belief to be understood in a deeper, or at least more understandable, way.

Where to start?

“Dreams feel real while we’re in them.”
One of the first ways this movie demonstrates New Age principles so well is in its portrayal of what we perceive to be reality to be an illusion, a dream. And not just any dream but a dream with layers. What New Age thought realizes that many other beliefs systems do not is that the afterlife is as much a dream as this world is. The cycle of karma and reincarnation is going constantly between two different levels of the dream, neither one the reality we will embrace when we reach enlightenment, but both appearing quite real when we are in them. This constant cycle of never being able to escape the dream and its intoxicating nature is shown again and again in Inception. In the group of men who come to Yusef every day to dream because “The Dream has become their reality”; in the nature of Cobb’s totem, a top that never stops spinning symbolizing this constant cycle that never ends; in the shade of Mal’s call to stay in limbo because “you don’t believe in one reality anymore” the temptation to stay in the dream and how hard it is to separate ourselves from its Siren’s call is shown in Inception as a perfect parallel to New Age belief.

The nature of the illusion of the dream

Inception also does a wonderful job of showing what the nature of the illusionary world is. Not only does the film do an excellent job of pointing out the fluid nature of time and our perception of it (see the video above). Time is in the mind like everything else, and our perception of it can be just as fluid. Also there is the fact that it shows that the time spent in reality is negligible to the time in the illusion. “Who would want to be stuck in a dream for ten years?” Remind me how long ago the big bang was? Inception also starts with the basic premise that New Age belief, along with most eastern philosophies would agree with that, “pain is in the mind.” Everything is in the mind. Because it is ideas that create and form the world of the illusion.

“The smallest seed of an idea can grow to define or destroy you”

Ideas are what create and drive the world. The physical is probably the least important thing in life. It is ideas that are the prime factor, and this is shown quite well in Inception. We move forward or don’t by the force of our own ideas. And like Cobb’s projection of Mal, we often put our own worst obstacles in front of ourselves and have no one to blame but ourselves. It is our ideas that need to change and not our physical condition. The movie shows us that we are the ones who create our own prisons through Mal’s decision to remain in limbo, “She had locked something always something deep inside her a truth she had once known but choose to forget. Limbo became her reality” but it further shows us that we are the only ones who can truly free ourselves, notice that in Inception the idea while it can be suggested to the character of Fischer must come from himself if it is to become rooted in his mind. But Inception also shows how ideas, especially those left at that bottom level of limbo (i.e. for a New Ager the physical world) affect our ability to move out of it—Cobb could not move on before he dealt with his issues with Mal in limbo, and no one is reaching Enlightenment until they deal with their issues here on this planet.

The Labyrinth of the mind and Ariadne’s thread

But luckily Inception shows the way out of limbo which is strangely similar to the way out of the prison we have created for ourselves in real life. While the dream of Inception is intoxicating and filled with deep personal issues, the character of Ariadne (named after the mythological character who led Theseus out of the labyrinth and then married the god of spiritual understanding) tells Cobb “Your guilt defines her. It empowers her…if we are going to succeed in this you have to forgive yourself. “An interesting parallel to a New Ager is the lack of forgiveness and guilt and fear is what keeps us from achieving Enlightenment. But even Cobb knew a spark of this truth himself as he was obsessed with a song entitled “No I have no regrets” (the song they use to time their kick out of the dream, also that is the translation of the lyric we always hear in the film). He knows, just as we need to learn that it is regrets that tie us to that bottom level and it is regrets that prevent us from living in the real world. And it is through happiness and forgiveness that we give up our regrets, or a Cobb states, “Positive emotion trumps negative emotion any time. We all yearn for reconciliation, catharsis.”

So the question now only remains will you let go of your regrets, forgive and love?
“Do you want to take a leap of faith, or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?” And you may complain that death seems to be the way out in Inception keeping in mind that death has always been a metaphor for killing our lowest and darkest fears that hold us back.

And on a final note. The pitch went down and it wobbled.

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Inception, the New Age, and the Celestine Prophecy

So, over the last few days I have really been wanting to talk about “Inception.” It is one of the best movies of the past decade and it is clearly deeply philosophical but discussing it with people who haven’t seen it isn’t just a spoiler it’s standing outside a double showing of “The Usual Suspects” and “The Sixth Sense” and telling every person walking in “Kevin Spacey is Keyser. Bruce Willis is dead.” So even though Inception would serve as a great metaphor to help describe New Age beliefs (even though I don’t think that was Nolan’s point) I can’t say anything about it, lest I spoil the movie. All I’m going to say is “It wobbled!”

So while I wait for everyone to see “Inception” I’ll just start a long string of blog on how other movies show New Age principles (probably followed by a series on conservative principles, but one thing at a time). So let us begin with possibly one of the most explicit New Age movies ever: The Celestine Prophecy.

So let me say at first that the movie and the book The Celestine Prophecy are simply not great literature. The dialogue is kind of stiff, the plot on the edge of overly coincidental and characters often lack some depth. However, it’s not meant to be great literature. The story, and by extension, are a parable meant to teach what are called the Nine Insights of the Celestine Prophecy. And like any parable, theme and message are the important part, characterization and plot are not the primary concern.

That being said, the Nine Insights of the Celestine Prophecy are the author James Renfield’s attempt to distill the New Age movement into it’s most basic and widely held principles. Now unlike most movies I will discuss in this series of blogs, the Celestine Prophecy does not require you to dig for its meaning. Often they will literally say “The Fourth Insight means” and then the next ten minutes of the movie illustrate the point.

So I’m just going to go over some of the basics you should know about the New Age as told through the Celestine Prophecy. The First Insight is that we are on the verge of a New Age in human development (yes the term New Age does actually have a meaning). We are on the cusp as a society of seeing the world not just as a series of random events, or even as a series actions and reactions based on pure Newtonian falling of dominoes, but rather existence as a place to learn and grow. Things do not happen because a butterfly flaps it’s wings, but because we need them to to push us to the next lesson. As we begin to see this we will begin to see that the universe is constantly giving us clues to how to see to learn. And when we open ourselves up we see these clues, and god do we see them. They because obvious and we are able to step back and see everything working, and when we step back we see everything working for us. Carl Jung called this synchronicity (and he came up with that term before he lost his mind, so don’t go pulling up Jung’s crazy/evil later career as proof against the possibility of synchronicity). It’s where you see everything in the universe pointing in one direction or another.

Every person you run into, everything you see, every idea and feeling that comes up is the universe trying to show you synchronicity. If for instance both you feel the sudden urge to reconnect with an old friend and they suddenly call, that’s something…your rational mind might try to say it’s just coincidence but it’s not it’s the universe trying to make everything work in tandem. If you both suddenly realize you are meant for each other on the same day and then try and call each other with this revelation at the exact same moment thus getting busy signals on each others phone and thus get a busy signal both ways–that’s not coincidence and don’t try to fool yourself that it is, it is the universe trying to shout the obvious to you. Now, sadly, humanity for the past few thousand years had listened to their ego and not their soul about these things, and thus they don’t see them as what they are. But as we accept them more and more, we’ll see them more and more until the point where you will be able to be guided by the signs that are all around you. Basic rule, the universe is too well ordered and has too much of a purpose to be random, thus there is no coincidence…only signs we don’t understand.

The Second Insight is that this synchronicity is not only on a personal level–It exist on the level of the whole world. And if nothing in the world is coincidental then everything in history has been part of a purpose leading us to some next stage in human existence. The New Age. What and When? I’m not exactly sure. But we can either go about our lives and not hinder this coming moment, or we act with determination and move this the planet forward intentionally.

As to the other Insights. I would highly recommend that the book and the movie are great places to start for anyone interested in the New Age. (Again I apologize, they are not great art, but they are good philosophy).

Coming Next Week: The M. Night Shymalan Oeuvre (minus those last two terrible movies).

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