Msg#: 8584 *BULLETIN BOARD*
07/01/88 16:22:00 (Read 0 Times)
From: MATTHEW DUNHAM
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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