Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Email

Expand your perspective with thought-provoking insights, quotes, and videos hand-picked by our editors—along with the occasional update about the world of EnlightenNext.

Privacy statement

Your email address is kept confidential, and will never be published, sold or given away without your explicit consent. Thank you for joining our mailing list!


Taking the Quantum Leap... Too Far?

Not Just a Movie Review of What the Bleep Do We Know!?
by Tom Huston

Something unusual hit the world running this past spring. Opening at art-house theaters across the western U.S., and winning every independent film festival award it was nominated for, an effects-laden docudrama began stunning viewers everywhere with its creative confluence of science and spirituality—and subverting common notions of reality along the way. “Once in a while a film comes out that can change the world, and this is one of those films,” avowed one fan on the film's website. Said another: “I started crying in the middle of this movie because it was the first time in my life I had proof that there were lots of people who believe like I do.” And its impact is continuing to spread, as word-of-mouth acclaim brings the movie to new theaters across the country every week, with an even wider release slated for this fall. Called What the #$*! Do We Know!? (aka What the BLEEP Do We Know!?), this feature-length film is an ambitious and entertaining attempt to turn such heady subjects as quantum physics, the nature of God, and neurochemistry into fun and easily digestible concepts. It does so through a cleverly edited blend of interview clips, a dramatic fictional narrative, animated CGI (computer-generated image) “characters,” and perhaps even more space-time-warping visual effects than most major Hollywood blockbusters manage to conjure up.

Starring Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) as Amanda, a professional photographer whose unfortunate favorite pastime seems to be chain-popping antidepressants, What the Bleep's story line is a simple tale of personal transformation—from self-hatred to self-acceptance—with some unusual characters offering the protagonist helpful information along the way. What isn't simple about this hybrid documentary's narrative element is the way it's presented: peeking out here and there between bursts of interview footage and grand CGI tours of quantum and cellular realms, the plot is initially hard to figure out. Indeed, for at least the first half hour, the drama may even seem unnecessary and vaguely reminiscent of a PBS after-school special. The longer you watch, however, the more What the Bleep's complex docudrama blend starts to make sense, and Amanda's transformative journey is recognized as the essential meandering line connecting all the other dots.

Walking through downtown Portland, Oregon, taking pictures and looking alternately anxious and despondent, the deaf but lip-reading Amanda finds herself in a number of odd situations and interacting with some unusual characters. For example, there's the basketball-playing, reality-bending whiz kid Duke Reginald, who comes off as a twelve-year-old version of The Matrix's earnest prophet Morpheus, only funnier. He challenges Amanda to a game of basketball on his “court of unending possibilities” while explaining to her some far-out physics facts, such as the notion that material objects (like her hands and the ball she's holding) never actually touch, because nonbonded atoms energetically repel each other and don't make physical contact. Indeed, how “physical” is anything, anyway? When the whiz kid launches his basketball into the sky, we're drawn along with it into outer space where the scene opens onto stunning cosmic vistas before diving deep into impressive computer-generated sequences of molecular, atomic, and subatomic realms. Here a disembodied commentator explains that what we perceive as solid matter is really composed almost entirely of empty space and is ultimately—proceeding down to the quantum level where energy bits phase in and out of existence—completely insubstantial. “The most solid thing you can say about all this insubstantial matter,” the narrator tells us, “is that it's more like a thought—it's like a concentrated bit of information.

Soon after her strange encounter with young Duke Reginald, Amanda is looking at a subway-platform presentation of the work of Japan's Dr. Masaru Emoto, whose experiments purport to demonstrate the effects of positive or negative thinking on the formation of either beautiful or unsightly ice crystals in water, when she meets a mysterious man. “Makes you wonder, doesn't it?” he intones. “If thoughts can do that to water, imagine what our thoughts can do to us.” That sentence replays itself in Amanda's mind more than once as the film progresses, and it turns out to hold the key to her eventual psychological breakthrough. In fact, the idea that you create your own reality is the New Age notion lying at the heart of What the Bleep, the fundamental concept upon which all its other ideas thrive.

However, before Amanda gains the mental clarity to recreate her reality, she must contend with a chaotic Polish wedding that she's been hired to photograph. Here the film delves into the mysteries and mechanics of the human mind, explaining the function of neurotransmitters through stunning visual effects. The main focus is the way in which we become chemically “addicted” to certain varieties of neurotransmitters based on the emotional experiences they're associated with. “If you can't control your emotional state, you must be addicted to it,” says one of the frequently shown interviewees, Dr. Joe Dispenza. Through an entertaining and sexually charged twenty-three-minute scene, Amanda mingles clumsily with the wedding guests, taking pictures, having flashbacks to her own ill-fated marriage, and experiencing further hallucinatory visions of CGI marvels. This time, rather than the electric-blue energies of the quantum realm, she sees multicolored dancing gumdrops—human cells under the influence of various neurotransmitters. Amanda begins seeing them at work in everybody, including herself: a room full of biochemically conditioned people, absorbed by lust, hunger, rage, and shyness, while apparently oblivious to the impersonal interplay that's actually happening between them all on the deeper level of animated chemicals. Despite its cartoonish feel, this is perhaps What the Bleep's most implicating and thought-provoking scene, confronting viewers with questions like: Are we really just biological puppets controlled by a slough of chemicals? And if so, how do we cut the strings?

In the midst of all this activity, popping up constantly to offer choice commentary on the physics or metaphysics that parallel whatever situation Amanda finds herself in, are the medical doctors and scientists, not to mention a 35,000-year-old channeled entity, who have been interviewed for the film—and, indeed, are most of the film. Through the insights of fourteen personalities in total, nearly all of whom are authors of books with such titles as The Quantum Brain and Conscious Acts of Creation, Amanda is fed a wealth of paradigm-shattering information, being somehow mysteriously attuned to whatever frequency they're broadcasting on and subconsciously picking up on their pithy profundities. “We're living in a world where all we see is the tip of the iceberg—the classical tip of an immense quantum mechanical iceberg,” says physicist John Hagelin of Maharishi University. Former University of Oregon physics professor Amit Goswami adds, “You really have to recognize that even the material world around us—the chairs, the tables, the rooms, the carpet, camera included—all of these are nothing but possible movements of consciousness.”

What all of this eventually leads Amanda to is the realization that in order to change her life, she needs to change the way she thinks about it. She needs to embrace a new worldview, a new paradigm—one in which quantum physics, biochemistry, mind, emotions, God, and everything in between are interconnected in a seamless matrix of infinite potentials that is capable of being radically altered by thought alone.


As mentioned earlier, What the Bleep has been very successful for an independent film, and its popularity only seems to be growing. But why are people converging on theaters to see it? Why are so many Americans, from Gen-Y teens to boomers in their late fifties, finding a rather peculiar documentary that explores the intersection of science and spirituality so compelling? Could it be simply the fact that there even is a film depicting the peaceful coexistence of these typically antithetical worlds?

What the Bleep was written, produced, and directed over a period of three years by a trio of filmmakers from Yelm, Washington. William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente came together in 2001, convinced that the Hollywood standard of “rape, pillage, and plunder” as entertainment wasn't the only way to go about pleasing moviegoers. They wanted to make a spiritually uplifting and scientifically educational film—one that would appeal to mainstream audiences while also managing to convey a few key concepts from quantum physics and biology. “Science has been saying the mind affects reality for quite some time,” Arntz has said. “This is the first non-fantasy film that not only says this, but shows mind/matter interaction, and it does it in a thoroughly entertaining way.” What the Bleep is undoubtedly entertaining, and by all accounts it is affecting audiences profoundly. Yet it is the matter of what exactly “science has been saying” that many reviewers, myself included, find questionably represented by the film. And this seems indicative of a larger confusion in our culture regarding the actual connections between science and spirituality—a confusion that has been rampant within the domain of pop spirituality for over two decades.

All three of What the Bleep's producers are students at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment (RSE). For those who aren't up on the Who's Who of the New Age, Ramtha is the aforementioned 35,000-year-old channeled entity who speaks frequently throughout What the Bleep. Channeled by former Tacoma, Washington, soccer mom J.Z. Knight since 1978 (a year after Ramtha first appeared to Knight in her kitchen one Sunday afternoon), Ramtha—described by his students as a “master teacher” and “hierophant,” and always referred to as “he” despite the gender of his channel—has been teaching people for over two decades about such classic subjects as the true history of Atlantis, the nature of reality, God, past lives, and how to take charge of one's personal destiny. But perhaps more than any other New Age authority, Ramtha has used the hallowed clout of science to support his spiritual teachings—particularly when it comes to the idea that we “create our own reality.” This is where Ramtha sees quantum physics seamlessly merging with his brand of metaphysics, and he definitely isn't the only one.

[ continue ]


Subscribe to What Is Enlightenment? magazine today and get 40% off the cover price.

Subscribe Give a gift Renew