From Thought Form Projection to Karma,
Christopher Nolan's Film lives up to its Name
by Barbara Condron
When a reporter asked Christopher Nolan, director of Inception, if the commercial success of his previous movie The Dark Knight gave him the freedom "to push the boundaries of what you can do", Nolan replied,
"I felt a responsibility."
It's quite a breath of fresh air to hear freedom and responsibility so transparently paired, particularly from someone with Christopher Nolan's field of influence. Someone once asked him why he is interested in the mind.
"I only slightly facetiously answered, 'Well, I've always lived in one,'" Nolan told USA Today (July 15). Then he added, "But there's something to that. You do live in your own mind."
It is exactly this level of thinking that is the most striking success of Nolan's film. This film could only be made by someone sincerely fascinated with what really makes us tick - our Minds.
This brings Inception into my backyard, the study, research, and development of Mind and consciousness at the School of Metaphysics in the U.S.
Reviews lead you to believe Nolan's film is about dreaming. The plot line is simple. A man has been taught by his father-in-law to value his dreams, to learn from them, to use them in ways far beyond most people's imagination. Therein lies a key.
In that light, Nolan's movie is about the power to image, to create the world we live in. Projection is what the academically-trained call it. It is our ability to imagine reality and direct it onto the people, places, and things in our environment.
Whether the body is awake or asleep, we, you and I create the world. Asleep, Dom, the main character, has created a life with his wife, who died by her own choice from an idea she took literally, rather than symbolically. She had lost the ability to dream.
Dom creates with his ragtag group of dream-makers in order to steal corporate secrets. The process is called extraction. It takes three co-creators: a planner, an architect, and a forger to plant an idea. This is called "inception" and it's a concept destined to be utilized by academicians, novelists and comedians from this time forward.
Although others have certainly introduced the concept of how we influence each other with our thoughts - my recent favorite is Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point - Nolan has managed to effectively implant it in the minds of the movie goer through the most efficient thought projection tool man has developed the cinema.
When the ending credits began to role, the man seated two rows in front of us guffawed with one of those "what-the-heck" sounds, shifted in his seat, and indicated to his partner it was time to leave. As he departed, he left a trail of thought forms like dust clouds behind him. The movie is confusing to those who lack the knowledge of how the mind is structured or even what its function is. One reviewer, a male, called Nolan "the thinking man's action filmmaker" while a female reviewer calls him "Hollywood's most innovative filmmaker." Both descriptions acknowledge his willingness to use movies to stimulate us to think.
Media has always sought to do this. It is in its very nature - images and sounds, now 3D and smell-o-vision captivating. The incorporation of all the senses completely engages the mind in virtual reality otherwise known as thought form projection.
Back in the late 70s, I created an afternoon workshop called "Who's Controlling Your Mind?" The subject was the influence of media on the consciousness of society. This was when computers filled very large spaces and the internet was a gleam in the military's eye. Yet, there were those students who understood how advertising was the skilled art of seduction - planting seeds of desire in the minds of a largely cooperative public. Media has done this since the beginning, and it's time we woke up about it on a personal level. When we do, it's a choice to be responsible for what we think, why we think, and how we think.
It is fortunate the movie uses the dreamworld to convey its story because dreaming is the immediate access people will allow themselves to Subconscious Mind. In Subconscious Mind, telepathy, deja vu, and retrocognition are experiences to understand, whereas they are mere ideas to the waking Conscious Mind. Introducing the totem is more than a clever device, it is an ancient practice by those who claim the inner territories as much as the outer. The use of a trinket, item, or even the tip of the finger aids SOM students to develop dream lucidity. Being able to tell whether you is awake or in the dream is an essential element in understanding and navigating your own Mind.
In Inception, Dom's life choices have led him to the awareness that thoughts create reality. Before he turned professional, experimenting with his wife was his early training ground in group dreaming. When you think about it, what person in love has not been elated by dreaming of the beloved? An International Association for the Study of Dreams founder Jeremy Taylor told me not long ago that he and his wife attribute the longevity of their marriage to shared accounts of dreaming. Intimacy is more about subconscious sharing than physical contact.
Over the years, I have heard many accounts of shared dreaming between family members and even strangers dreaming of people they later meet, often in the manner they foresaw in the dream. I have shared many initiation and learning dreams with teachers and students. All of these are natural abilities to the Subconscious Mind. They are supernatural to the waking mind. This is one reason why developing Mind is difficult, for many. The Conscious Mind has limits.
In the movie, Dom is limited by his own guilt and the projections that stem from that restrict his abilities and threaten to rule his dreamworld, jeopardizing his competency. For him, extraction became an art and science while inception brought pain and death.
Ultimately, Inception is a redemption story of letting go of guilt by taking responsibility for your own thoughts. Dom was responsible for the truth he recognized. His wife was responsible for how she received it, what she wanted or didn't want, and her choices. As long as he was using his deceased wife's totem, he could not clearly see the difference.
It's an old story of giving away credit and casting blame. More than one great master of consciousness has suggested the sagacity, in some variation, of removing the plank from one's own eye before projecting judgement lest one eat a significant serving of humble pie! Many brilliant minds have fallen due to the folly of choosing for others. Like Dom, sooner or later, we must accept responsibility for our own thoughts and actions and give respect to others for theirs, whether we agree with them or not.
For all the attention Inception brings to the dreamworld, the questions it places on the table include: What does it require to project a new idea? Why is it so difficult for new ideas to take root? Which ideas are worth thinking and which need to be acted upon? Where does responsibility begin and end in relationships? What is the relationship between individual responsibility and group responsibility?
Undoubtedly, thought form projection is the core of this movie, and it is told in clear and responsible tones. This is a new type of story, a new type of myth I have been imaging for years. In the 1970s, I sat up until early morning hours brainstorming with students, teaches, and friends about how movies could teach metaphysical principles. Being a child of the cinematic culture, I received the images others created well into my middle years. I did not start my creating with moving images until the 2000s.
This long period of receptivity is part of the "long process" Dom mentions to Ariadne in the movie. Being lucid in your dreams, then creating in them, doesn't happen overnight. It is a process that requires discipline, practice, and time. We learn Dom has invested these in the dream world he and his wife created. They created and created, and lived 50 dream-years together. They fulfilled the dream. Dom knew this, his wife did not. He knew the difference between being whole and awake. She lost the ability to distinguish the two.
It is ironic that she has three professionals declare her sane before she commits suicide, all the while tempting and taunting her husband to do the same. How well that speaks to the need to know the Real Self, for only within does one find the True Reality.
This brings us to the spiritual core of the piece. When the movie begins Dom is a thief, stealing thoughts. By the end, he is redeemed, understanding his own thoughts. The journey is karmic, one choice leads to another, always with the same goal in mind - to get home.
That journey is conveyed well. It is played out in the deeper levels of scene, theme and characters, each plane where time seems altered from the physical point of view - speeded up. In the time it takes the van to fly off the bridge and hit the water, thousands of thoughts and actions have occurred in the mind. The ratio progresses in powers of ten. Physical reality is 1 minute to 10 minutes to 10 hours. The inward journey is a more rapid one. On the mental plane, I can think about having dinner in Australia immediately. Actually being there takes quite a bit longer to accomplish in the physical plane of existence.
The editing that conveys this deepening of levels and the activities occurring there that move Dom closer to his goal, is astounding. It is precise. The step-by-step process of going into mind - always with personal indebtedness present - is the height of personal responsibility. There is no cheating karma, no side-stepping obligations, no wishing away those things we do not understand. All debts will be paid, and this movie offers a stunning study in how that comes about.
Dom needs the help of other creators. He cannot accomplish his goal solo.
Dom needs inspiration, a teacher, which the young architect affords, not from her present life experiences moreso from the understandings she already possesses - the karmic debts she has already paid. Ariadne is the one who can see what Dom needs to do to reclaim his own sanity, to reconcile the guilt by seeing it differently. She is the one who stays with him, goes with him, and when required, acts. Ariadne is any number of very old souls in young bodies, those with ability and talent in the inner levels of mind who need places to influence while developing themselves. Just look online and you will see evidence of them.
Dom needs the sense of family to keep him rooted, grounded, so he may be whole. Awareness of where we come from feeds our vision of where we are to go.
Dom needs a "job" that will open his own understandings. He has shut down his inception ability from his reaction to his wife killing herself. He claims responsbility for it and blames himself seeing his inceptino ability as cause. As long as he is stuck in this Newtonian view of himself and the world, his power is waning. His dream-wife become inceasingly dangerous to Dom and the others he imploys because she is a constant distraction for him. She is a memory run amok that Dom needs to tame. "you must kill her" Ariadne tells him. Dom assumes responsibility for his own thoughts when he does. That reponsibility gives him the freedom to go home.
The real beauty here is there is no trick ending. Christopher doesn't steal from us. It is not a betrayal. It is a lesson. And in that light, Inception takes its rightful place as one of the millennial myths that will be referenced by generations to come.
I appreciate this movie and plan to use it in Linguistic, Media, and Imperience classes at the College of Metaphysics in the years ahead. There is more to say about its content and that will come in time.
For now, let me close on this note. I am encouraged that Christopher Nolan exists as a filmmaker in the world. It is more than liking or disliking his movie, for certainly people will have opinions. That reality is the value I see in this film. I receive a sense that like James Cameron, and George Lucas before him, he is serving as a tool of the universe to introduce certain truths into the populace. On this level, stories themselves inceptions have always provided this important function in every culture.
In present times, what were stories told by shamans around the campfires have now become glimmering images on screens around the world while audiences sit transfixed by them, then discuss, even argue, the merits of what they have seen. Will people realize the chains that hold them in Plato's cave are of their own making? If Christopher Nolan continues to tell stories, the freedom he values will become an experience for us all. Perhaps, he is the first to break free and has returned to share with us what he has seen.•
Barbara Condron has been studying dreams informally since age 6, formally since age 22, nationally since age 35, and globally since age 45. She is webmaster for dreamschool.org and is writing a book called AVATAR DREAMS: Mastering the Dream Consciousness Circuit that she plans to release first online. A past president of SOM, Dr. Condron presently serves as Governor of International Education.