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"OUT ON A LIMB"

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/01/2003

Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics

Source: CCN

                          "OUT ON A LIMB"

When a made-for-TV movie gets this much hype, I watch it out of curiosity.  Ordinarily, I would have tuned in "Murder, She Wrote," but I can't stand to be ignorant on the topic of everyone else's conversation.

For some imponderable reason, ABC-TV offered a 5-hour pulpit to Shirley MacLaine to display her odyssey from spiritual skeptic to Aquarian "true believer."  Atlantis, the Great Pyramid, trance mediums, astral projection, and telepathic space aliens -- we find them all in "Out on a Limb," along with the logic (such as it is) for their legitimacy.

MacLaine begins by telling us it was an affair with a married man which awakened her spiritual hunger.  A friend introduces her to Gerry Stamford (played by Charles Dance), a culturally-sensitive but atheistic Socialist with a seat in the British House of Commons.  A strange magnetism draws each to the other -- indeed, MacLaine is convinced Stamford is her soul mate.  Stamford, however, is tortured and embarrassed by his duplicity and the threat of discovery, but by meeting in Paris, Stockholm, London, and various cities around the globe they can minimize this threat.

MacLaine soon encounters David Manning (John Heard), an "off-and-on" painter who exudes an aura of Eastern spirituality. Manning awakens her to new realities, all the while dropping standard New Age slogans ("I don't believe in accidents --everything happens just as it should").  Manning is cryptic about his own beliefs and background, constantly remarking things like, "When it's time, I'll tell you."  Yet MacLaine finds him strangely fascinating.

Manning takes her to the Bodhi Tree bookstore in Los Angeles, where MacLaine baptizes herself in literature about metaphysics, reincarnation, and New Age philosophy.  Later, MacLaine visits a psychic bookstore in London, where a book literally drops itself into her arms, to teach her the wonders of "trance channeling."

Shirley is hesitant to accept all this new information so quickly, hardly sure of her own status as a manifestation of God. Yet, David is the one person who, as her "spiritual guide," is destined to help her progress.  During an oceanside conversation, David presses her to stand up and assert the presence of the "God-truth" within.  After suggesting several affirmations, he selects a powerful one for Shirley:  "I am God."

Timidly, she stands at the Pacific.  Stretching out her arms, she mouths the words half-heartedly.

"Say it louder."

Shirley blusters about this statement being a little too pompous. For him to make her chant those words is -- well, it sounds so insufferably arrogant.

David's answer cuts to the quick: "See how little you think of yourself?"

This deep insight embarrasses MacLaine into holy boldness. Intuitively, she comes to feel he's right.  Lifting both arms to the sky, she pumps it out -- "I am God!  I am God!" -- as the ocean laps at her feet.

Yet, her innate divinity is somehow tied to reincarnation, and it's hard for her to accept.  "If reincarnation is true, why isn't it mentioned in the Bible?" she asks.

David replies that the emperor Justinian controlled the Second Council of Constantinople, and had reincarnation erased from the Scriptures.  Justinian was so high-handed, the Council so corrupt, that even the Pope refused to attend, Manning says.  Shirley is mute at David's wealth of knowledge on ecclesiastical history.

Most Jewish historians would be surprised to hear that a Christian council managed to tamper with their Bible (to Christians, the Old Testament).  And in the case of the New Testament, there are texts that which predate this sixth century council by more than two hundred years.  The council, incidentally, had no control over the retention any verses of Scripture.  It was convened to answer questions and denounce heresies relating to the divine and human nature of Christ.

MacLaine's feels an increasing conflict between her lover's atheism and her own deepening excursion into the enchanted forest. The tug of curiosity pulls hard from Manning, her books, and new friends who introduce her to "trance channelers."

She meets Sture Johanssen and Kevin Ryerson, two mediums who reveal experiences from past lives (played by themselves).  (Shirley MacLaine noted on an interview with the Oprah Winfrey's TV talk show that while Ryerson forgot his lines, his "spirit guide" memorized all his lines perfectly for each rehearsal.)  Ryerson, it turns out, provides a metaphysical explanation for MacLaine's attraction to Stamford, informing her that 300,000 years ago they were married in the fabled continent of Atlantis.  In that incarnation, Stamford was preoccupied with making cultural exchanges with extraterrestrials, leaving no time for MacLaine, Ryerson tells her.

Oddly, MacLaine never considers the morality of breaking up a marriage in this life, to continue a relationship which had ended several hundred thousand years ago.

Manning eventually persuades MacLaine to accompany him to Peru, in search of extraterrestrials and further revelations.  Manning says there is a spiritual knowledge she can only learn in Peru.

On one of the high and winding roads in Peru, Shirley and David peer down a deep precipice.  A bus and several autos lie in twisted silence at the bottom of the crevasse, so deep that no attempt has ever been made to remove the wreckage.  The ugly remnants of freak, violent death shocks her.

She asks Manning if he can explain those deaths, if everything happens for a purpose, and if we all create our own reality.

David is unmoved by this challenge.  He explains that it was time for them to move on to another incarnation.  And before you can say, "Jack be nimble," we hear that these tragedies are only an illusion because the victims are "not really dead."

In Peru he reveals to her his secret.  He is in telepathic contact with an extraterrestrial woman he met eight years ago in Peru. She calls herself "the Mayan" and comes from the Pleiades star system, and has chosen him as a vessel to convey psycho-spiritual truths to one special person.  Manning, in turn, is commissioned to  find this person, who will bring these truths to the world in a book.  MacLaine is the person, and what became "Out on a Limb" is the book.

Ironically, MacLaine, who went to Peru to see flying saucers, now thinks David is crazy.  After she has several bizarre experiences, including an out-of-body episode that takes her beyond the moon, MacLaine is soundly converted.

The viewer who is not already predisposed to embrace space aliens or reincarnation is left with a few nagging questions.

Although "Out on a Limb" is a propaganda piece, we would expect dialogue with greater maturity than slogans snipped from an est (Erhard Seminars Training) session, such as, "We all create our own reality" or "Everybody's got their own truth."

I'm not so sure.  Everyone may have his own OPINION, but TRUTH should be made of sturdier stuff.  The "truth" to Charles Manson is that there is no evil and there is no death.  The "truth" to Sharon Tate and our criminal justice system is the opposite.  What was true for Hitler is not true for Nuremburg.  And ultimately, one truth is justified while the other truth is condemned.

MacLaine is stretching a point in appealing to the Bible as justification for reincarnation, trance mediumship, and self-deification.  It is intellectually dishonest to press historic monotheism into the service of pantheistic philosophy.  If MacLaine wishes to embrace the idea that we are all God, there is no need to pretend that Judaism or Christianity support this view.

True, the Bible is widely acknowledged as a source of spiritual truth, but its underlying philosophy posits a vast difference between the Creator and the creation.  The omission and implicit rejection of reincarnation in the sacred text was is not due to any ecclesiastical tampering by the Christian church, or it would be found in the Jewish text.  The Bible's view of the afterlife is simply opposes to theory of transmigration of the soul, just as it prohibits people from consulting mediums. MacLaine and her New Age counterparts should be honest enough to admit the basic incompatibility of these views.

It is all too easy to dismiss Shirley MacLaine as spiritual eccentric, to laugh at her vivid accounts of past-life love affairs and extraterrestrial cultural exchanges.  To do so is to underestimate the weight of her error.  These views are proliferating in our society at an alarming rate.  The distinction between opinion and truth is blurred, even as are the distinctions between desire and reality, and between Creator and creature.

This mini-series began with the words, "Shirley reaches out for the fruit of the tree, and goes out on a limb."  Long ago in another Garden a certain pair of humans also reached for an alluring fruit in the promise of becoming deity.  The original sin in the Garden is neither entirely past nor easily erased.  Our desire for knowledge can be virtuous, yet such knowledge cannot be obtained through dubious means.  Denying biblical and historic truth in favor of telepathic visions is perilous.  Our hunger for God is real, and we should accept no plastic substitutes.





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