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   INTRODUCTION
 
 
 
'JESUS OF MONTREAL'
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.   (Matthew 10:34 - 10:37) 

 

 
 
CHRIST  IN  CINEMA
 
Reviewed by Gregory and Maria Pearse
on  April 4, 2004
 
Crucifix 46
by William Congdon
 
 "JESUS OF MONTREAL" (1989)
  directed by Denys Arcand
 
 
This is an exceptionally well-made film by Denys Arcand, a director with definite artistic sensibilities. The film is set in modern times: the priest hires some actors to "update" the Passion play, which his church has been staging every year for its parishioners. The actors take on this project with a great deal of earnestness, but with no actual spiritual seeking. They approach the story of Christ as they would any other famous historical figure or any other celebrity. In this connection it's humorous to recall Lev Tolstoy's words: "If Christ were to come again, our ladies would ask Him for an autograph and that would be the end of it." 
 
This film is more about how a modern generation deals with the problem of relating to the time and personality of Christ. Identifying only with the element of social rebelliousness and missing the spiritual value of Christ's Teaching, they are unable to recognize His Divinity. So the main focus of the film is on the interrelationships between the actors as they struggle to keep their version of the Passion play alive despite the aroused opposition from the church establishment. And in the process, the film does show just how little Christ's Message is heeded in a contemporary world of routine promiscuity, moral compromising and getting ahead at someone else's expense.  
 
At the end of the film, an attempt is made to draw a loose parallel between the death of a leading character (an actor, who was hired by the church to play Christ) and the death of Christ. This is, to put it mildly, a stretch. But one point needs to be addressed quite seriously: at the end of this film the idea of "giving of oneself" is equated with organ donations after death. This is the unfortunate consequence of ignorance about the sequence of events immediately following a physical death. Below is an excerpt from Herbert Vollmann's "The Silver Cord":
 
"Clairvoyants are able to observe the process of dying. In Shaw Desmond's book "How you Live when you Die" (Rider & Co., London), he says on pages 20/21:

'To come more nearly to the consideration of what happens immediately after death, it should be stated that death does not ensue instantly upon the heart ceasing to beat. From what we have been told by the astral physicians and, indeed, to a certain extent by actual observations in the sick room on this side of death, the silver cord is not severed for a day to four or five days after apparent death.

'The actual separation takes only a few seconds. In that instant of severance, the `dead' person finds himself or herself looking down upon his or her own body! It is an extraordinary moment. It is so if only because for the first time the man or woman has found out that the body was not himself or herself. That it was no more than a suit of clothes or a dress with which one had finished and so was thrown aside.'

The severing of the silver cord is not always easy.

Only man himself is responsible for its condition, thus for its density and detachability. The more he chains himself to earthly things the denser and heavier it becomes, and with it also the ethereal body; hence in certain cases such a man must feel not only the last earthly-physical pains, but also the disintegration of his physical cloak.

But in such a state also cremation will not pass by the soul without leaving some trace. The English poet H. Dennis Bradley asked a deceased person through a medium about this, and received the following answer, which he published in his book "Towards the Stars" (T. Werner Laurie, London), pages 264/265:

'In a sense you are wrong about the burning of bodies ... On the other hand, you are not quite right in believing that this sudden and complete destruction does not wound. In a sense it does. Because, as you know, there is a fragile envelope which surrounds the soul as a tissue might, which fades away shortly after death. It is a membrane, as it were, and this is very sensitive immediately after death, for what you would call a few days or a week. If the body is entirely destroyed, this membrane, which in a sense is still attached to the body, is severely hurt. It suffers, and this is imparted also to the discarnate part. So you must not smile completely at those whom you call fools, who believe that the body is entirely severed from the other parts at death. It is so after a very short time, but not immediately. Before the soul and spirit leave the darkness in which they are brought after they sever from the body, this membrane has withered away from them, but not at once.'

The "membrane" which is still attached to the body, and which only later withers away, is the so-called astral body, which after severance of the soul from the physical body disintegrates with the physical body. The astral body, which is dependent on the soul, is a mediator to the physical body. The so-called "phantom-pains" point to the existence of the astral body. People who have had a limb removed still suffer pains from time to time in the same place where the limb used to be. This is because the corresponding limb of the astral body cannot be removed along with it; the astral body remains as it is.

It should be mentioned here that there are people who even in their earth-lives can leave their physical body temporarily with their ethereal body. This may occur for instance during sleep. Also in such cases a connection between the two bodies always remains through the silver cord, which according to earthly concepts has an inconceivable capacity to stretch.

The Bible describes the awakening of the dead through Jesus, which He did as long as the silver cord was not yet severed. Only in this way could the souls already severing from their physical bodies return to them.

From these explanations it appears that the process of dying is not yet ended with "clinical" death. There is also an astral body which in certain circumstances dies only much later than the physical body. As long as this astral body is still connected with the physical body and the ethereal body, that is, as long as the connecting cord is not yet broken, any interference with the dead physical body can be painfully felt by the soul.....

Surely there can be no doubt that in order to obtain a clear picture, physical death must be regarded not only from this world but also from the beyond.

But contemplation of this other, invisible side cannot be done with the intellect, which itself is transient, thus of this world, because it is produced by the frontal brain that perishes at death.

As little as it is possible to drive in a nail with a goose-feather, so is no one in a position to recognise or to grasp what is in the beyond, that is, ethereal matter, with the gross-material brain, because the two are of an entirely different species.

Hence the only course open is to use the intuitive perception of the spirit, which has a higher origin than have the Worlds of Matter, and which can therefore view and understand all the visible and invisible connections in the entire World of Matter.

And only from this point of view must the increasing transplantations of physical organs from the just deceased into living persons be regarded. This is really a question of interference in man's personal sphere, to which he is defencelessly relinquished, because he can no longer attract attention physically to himself. But respect for one's neighbour, which also includes his physical body, and the commandment to do no harm to him whatsoever, applies not only to the earthly phase of life but also beyond death.

What use then is the consent given in ignorance of conditions in the beyond. The reality of the Ethereal World, into which a small glimpse was given here, will soon and painfully enlighten the departed soul.

Therefore such experiments on the human being must cease, simply because hardly anyone, not even the doctor concerned, can answer for the consequences of his interference in the beyond; for he is ignorant of them and thus cannot assess them. Moreover, Nature itself usually sets a limit through the diversity and incompatibility of the tissue-groups, although attempts are made even to break through this natural barrier.

Interference with the dead physical body, which also includes dissection and cremation, should, in the temperate zones, definitely not be undertaken within the well-known three days, for it is to be assumed that in normal cases the soul will only have severed itself from its physical body by the end of that period. This would then in any case rule out the removal of parts of the body for the purpose of transplantation, because such removal would have to be carried out immediately after clinical death in order to be at all clinically possible.

Nevertheless, not only the doctors concerned but also those persons who wish to give physical organs after their death, and equally the relatives of suddenly deceased persons who must consent in their place, and last but not least the recipients of such organs, must also consider what takes place in the beyond, and base their decisions on that.

It is a different matter, of course, when considering the widespread view of which the basic idea is that after death it is "all over". With this kind of thinking there can be no room for the reflection that at physical death something that is living and not visible also severs from the physical body, which through intervention in the physical body just laid aside might be injured. Here the physical body is simply material from which individual replacement parts are taken when needed.

Yet also with this opinion the responsibility of those who think in this way is not annulled before the Laws of Creation, either here or "there". For ignorance of the Laws of Creation is no protection from its consequences.

But for those who bear within them the conviction of survival after death, physical death is birth into the Ethereal Realm. Just as at birth into the gross-material, the earthly, the navel cord is severed, so the silver cord is severed at birth into the ethereal, the beyond. Death need not be feared by anyone who bears within him the living firm volition for good, even if the resolution for it has arisen only just before his physical death. It will help him safely over the threshold, and on the other side helping hands will carefully guide him on to that recognition which is still needed in order to ascend towards the Light."

(Herbert Vollmann, chapter "The Silver Cord" from "A Gate Opens")