For those whose knowledge on some of these topics is based on what they’ve read in various best-sellers, here is material that can provide some help getting it all into perspective.
and the Code He Lived By
This History Channel documentary explores every major chapter in Leonardo Da Vinci’s life. In this interesting overview of his roots, early life, patrons, major works of art, interests, successes, and failures, we’re told that he was born illegitimate and was not entitled to use his father’s name, let alone his financial resources or reputation within Florence; that he was charged with sodomy but was acquitted; and that he may have had ADD, among other little-known, by most anyway, information about this great visionary—the original “Renaissance man.”
Being a History Channel production, there are dramatic recreations which, though a bit overdone at times, provide period reconstructions that help portray the times in which Da Vinci lived and the influence on his character. In general, his story is told with a combination of tastefully done reenactments and interviews with historians. Though most viewers are familiar with him as an artist (after all, his paintings of the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” are considered to be some of the greatest works of art ever made), Da Vinci didn’t really think of himself as a painter. What might surprise some viewers is how little work he did overall—it was his active and restless mind that led to his fame. It was his voluminous notebooks that allow us insight into this intriguing man and his contributions to science and engineering.
This film begins with the brutal and gory battle at Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, which stood as the symbol of Roman glory for more than 1,000 years; but after a brutal siege, it fell at last to the Muslim Turks. Pope Pius II, right after the fall of Constantinople, reminded everybody in letters he sent throughout Europe that this was a monumental event. “The collapse of the mighty Byzantine Empire seems like the very end of civilization itself, but civilization is about to see a rebirth,” states the narrator at this point. “With the old city, an old idea dies, and a new one escapes, finding refuge to the west in the city-states of Italy. To the Byzantines, God is the center and meaning of everything; but a revolutionary idea, humanism, allows for the study of man and new explorations into science. It is a philosophy with the power to change the world. In studying God, we can study the theology and philosophy of God; but in studying man, we can study biology, zoology, anthropology, technology, and sciences of all different types. Humanism transferred man’s focus to man. In the city-states of Italy, humanism ignites a new age—the Renaissance—heralding an explosion of new ideas, new inventions, and new discoveries. It is a time like no other. It’s a nice time to be born as a really brilliant person.”
And into this time came Leonardo Da Vinci. He grew up in the countryside outside of Florence and had an insatiable curiosity from early in his life. But he had no real place in the world, no future; he was the bastard child of a respected notary and a poor farmer’s daughter. He did, however, live with his father, while his mother was left to marry someone of her own class. So, he did have a comfortable childhood, but because of his illegitimate status, his prospects looked bleak, as he would not be able to follow the father into the family business. He could not even take his father’s name; he was just known as Leonardo from Vinci. No money would be spent on his education. This is where the “code” is introduced into this documentary, as the narrator states that: “Faced with his illegitimacy, young Leonardo begins to develop a code—to push beyond all expectations, past all obstacles. It will eventually propel him into the corridors of power and on to greatness.” While this is a serious biography, there is a bit of hype in using “code” in reference to Da Vinci’s life. It appears that it’s an attempt to tie it to pop culture, as he didn’t actually have a code, per se. It certainly has nothing to do with the popular book. It was annoying to hear the frequent and inappropriate references to Da Vinci’s “code” when we know it’s used in the sense of his code of conduct and philosophy of life—and which didn’t need to be enhanced by this modern reference—so much for marketing. And, ultimately, he did get ‘an assist’ from his father. Leonardo still had to break free from his bastard status and earn a respected position in society, and that meant membership in the guilds, most of which were closed to bastards like him. Nevertheless, he did have the help of his father’s well-placed friend, Verrocchio and his art studio. The talent, however, was entirely Leonardo’s.
This documentary is not focused on Leonardo’s art, nor (as seen in previous reviews of DVDs on his work) is there any focus on secret societies and conspiracy theories—no “Da Vinci Code-style” here—no hidden intentions in “The Last Supper” painting, et al. For viewers familiar with that alternative viewpoint of Da Vinci’s life, this might seem like an incomplete biography after all.
A “heads up”—there is more blood and violence than one might prefer.
DVD – 90 Min. • $14.95 • 1-800-228-8381
Banned from the Bible
The Holy Bible has been, for thousands of years, the foundation on which Judaism and Christianity are built. But is it history—or myth? Who wrote it? How old is it? It’s been copied, translated, edited, and censored, but how accurate is it? A thousand years before and after Jesus, a small collection of writings became some of the sacred scriptures of Jews and Christians. To this day, this small library of ancient writings is accepted by many as the word of God. There were, however, hundreds of religious writings considered important at the time that were left out of the Holy Bible.
This documentary takes another look at these ancient texts that were edited out of the Bible. Are they the missing links to Christ’s true teachings, or heretical attempts to rewrite history? This film explores the kabbalistic stories of angels and demons disavowed by orthodox leaders and the apocalyptic visions and sexual imagery that were barred from the Old Testament. Why was Peter’s account of a Lord-of-the-Rings-style battle of wits and magic repressed by Rome? With discoveries being made all across the world—in caves, ruined temples, ancient libraries, and monasteries—these tantalizing fragments continue to be found and debated. Are they heresy or hidden truth? Among the finds are: The Book of Enoch, The Book of Jubilees, The Gospel of Thomas, The Secret Book of John, The Revelation of Adam, The Gospel of Philip, The Secret Book of James, and The Gospel of Mary. What is contained in these rejected books, and why were they left out? We are told that a lot of this forbidden material came from the gnostic groups.
Gathered in this single collection is a definitive survey of these “extra-canonical” texts. In this film you will learn of their creation alongside—or even before—the more accepted books of the Bible we know today. You will discover their messages and what we can conclude about the early Church from their exclusion. You will also see the lengths to which ancient editors went to hide them and how modern scholars have uncovered them. Told here is the story of the Gnostics who sought knowledge and wisdom from many different sources and accepted insight wherever it could be found. To gain their knowledge of the deep things of god, the Gnostics read and studied diverse religious and philosophical texts. In addition to Jewish sacred literature, Christian documents, and Greco-Roman religious and philosophical texts, the Gnostics studied religious works from the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Zoroastrians, Muslims, and Buddhists. All such sacred texts disclosed truths, and all were to be celebrated for their wisdom. This documentary takes you to many religious sites and provides input from various religious leaders.
Among the several narrators is Marvin Meyer, author of The Gnostic Bible, in which he states: The Gnostics were religious mystics who proclaimed gnosis—knowledge—as the way of salvation. To know oneself truly allowed gnostic men and women to know god directly, without any need for the mediation of rabbis, priests, bishops, imams, or other religious officials. (Meyer doesn’t capitalize the word ‘god’ because he says it retains its primary nature as a term signifying the concept of divinity; and he does not wish to limit the divine by restricting deity through name or selectivity. He says that traditionally the name and face of the divine are essentially unknowable, and so it is how he uses it.) Religious officials, who were not pleased with such freedom and independence, condemned the Gnostics as heretical and a threat to the well-being and good order of organized religion.
Gnostics loved to explore who they were and from where they had come, and hence they read creation stories such as the opening chapters of Genesis with vigor and enthusiasm. Like others, they recognized that creation stories not only claim to describe what was, once upon a time, but also suggest what is, now, in our own world. The Gnostics brought to their study a conviction that the story of creation had not been a happy one. There is, they reasoned, something fundamentally wrong with the world; there is too much evil and pain and death in the world and so there must have been something wrong with creation.
Consequently, Gnostics provided innovative and oftentimes disturbing interpretations of the creation stories they read. They concluded that a distinction, often a dualistic distinction, must be made between the transcendent, spiritual deity, who is surrounded by aeons and is all wisdom and light, and the creator of the world, who is at best incompetent and at worst malevolent. Yet through everything, they maintained, is a spark of transcendent knowledge, believing that wisdom, and light persists within people who ‘know.’ The transcendent deity is the source of that enlightened life and light.
The meaning of the creation drama, when properly understood, is that human beings—Gnostics in particular—derive their knowledge and light from the transcendent god, but through the mean-spirited actions of the demiurge, the creator of the world, they have been confined within this world. Humans in this world are imprisoned, asleep, drunken, fallen, and ignorant. They need to find themselves—to be freed, awakened, made sober, raised, and enlightened—in other words, a return to gnosis.
This is a well-produced documentary that might challenge some beliefs, as there are instances that clash with Christian dogma—including that the Bible is literally the inspired word of God, with no flexibility allowed. It was, the argument goes, also written by men, humans like ourselves, capable of error and prone to mistakes.
DVD – 100 Min. • $14.95 • 1-800-228-8381
Encounters from Another Dimension
Mill Creek Entertainment
This DVD set was released July 19, 2011, by the Mill Creek Entertainment studio and brings together seven documentaries that explore various assorted paranormal encounters, ranging from Extraterrestrial visitation to Crop Circle creation to Interstellar Communication. They explore the many questions where the answers may lie in other dimensions: What is their purpose? Where did they come from? Why did they come to Earth? From dramatic recreations to in-depth interviews, you will see many incredible events depicted and many attempts at explanation.
The set features:
1) Ancient Aliens: The Origins of Mankind—Unfortunately, the first disc out of the box starts with a poor quality recording of a Lloyd Pye lecture (“Human Origins and the Intervention Theory”) for AUFORN (Australian UFO Research Network). Based on his book, Everything You Know Is Wrong, Pye presents his theory that man did not evolve from apes, nor was he created by God, but that he was created by aliens (a much-covered topic these days). He queries and attempts to answer: Why do we use only 10% of our massively supercharged brains? Why is Earth minus a huge part of its crust? Why do humans have a gene pool with over 4,000 genetic defects? Why can’t megalithic structures like the pyramids be duplicated today?
2) Messages from Outer Space—This is about Billy Meier, who claims that he’s been having close encounters since 1942.
3) The Crop Circles Revealed—Aerial shots of crop circles. We’ve reviewed other DVDs where the quality was much, much better, but this provides some information.
4) The UFO Enigma—“For those who have stepped forth into the enigmatic and complicated world of UFO research, they know that it is rife with division,” states the narrator. Then the DVD continues with discussion and decent graphics.
5) Alien Contact: Communicating with E.T.’s—An interview with Terry Le Riche Walters, an Abductee. Somewhat interesting, as it starts out with the interviewer making reference to the ‘fact’ that Walters calls his abductors his “Orion friends” which he quickly corrects: “I don’t call them my Orion friends…the book publishers call them my Orion friends.” Even as a small child, he was psychic and had some healing ability; then as a teenager, more experiences happened. He was low-key in this interview, while sharing his memories of some very strange experiences. A bit off-putting to me were some graphics interspersed that didn’t seem appropriate. I can’t help but wonder how he felt about that when later viewing this film. He certainly wasn’t ‘into’ gray aliens, nor into the pop culture ideas of aliens taking eggs and sperm. As an aside—Walters has been to Egypt with Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock, and he recalls having had a past life there as a pharaoh.
6) UFO Crashes UK—Covers a case in Wales with on-site footage and narration.
7) Crop Circles and the Paranormal—More aerial shots of crop circles—washed-out footage, but there is more coverage of other topics; i.e., ley lines, orgone, Maxwell’s equations, and time. The graphics are adequate.
All of these topics have been available on the web for some time and have been covered in depth on other DVDs and reviewed in this magazine. This is mostly hours of interviews (including UFO experts Nick Pope and Timothy Good) with some UFO and crop circle footage. If you’re just starting to check out these topics, this might be a good choice for you, but for “old timers” who have been following these topics for years, this assemblage might be a disappointment. One thing, at least, is that it does give you the option of having all this information in one set.
DVD- 3-Disc Set, 536 Min. • $14.95 • 1-800-228-8381