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Ben Nadel at CFCamp 2023 (Freising, Germany) with: Denis Burimov
Ben Nadel at CFCamp 2023 (Freising, Germany) with: Denis Burimov ( @Denis_Burimov )

Movies As A Religious Experience

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Over the weekend, I went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The story line took a little while to pick up momentum; but, once it sucked me in, it ended up being a truly delightful movie. Definitely one that I would recommend. While watching it, however, I started to think about the relationship between the body and the soul and how the reality of a movie is often removed from the reality of every day life.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  

In a lecture on Judaism that I heard a while back, a Rabbi talked about the relationship between the body and the soul in the garden of Eden before the eating of the apple. In this time, the soul of Adam and the soul of Eve glowed so brightly that it overtook the appearance of the body. The Rabbi drew the metaphor of the lightbulb whose light shines so brightly that only the faintest outline of the bulb can be seen.

On, this idea is summarized as follows in an article on Modesty:

According to Judaism, God wanted us to enjoy an existence in which our physicality wouldn't stand in the way of defining ourselves internally. God therefore gave the first man and woman a great gift: the inborn ability to see each other in their totality.

With this perfect vision, man and woman saw each other's outer self and inner self as one inseparable unit. When man looked at woman, he simultaneously saw her mind, heart, and spirit. At the same moment that woman appreciated man's appearance, she appreciated who he really was.

Movies often get a bad reputation for distorting reality. In fact, I have heard a number of researchers (including several TED Talks) say that Romantic Comedies are actually detrimental to relationships because they present unrealistic expectations that a normal relationship cannot live up to.

As I was watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I started to wonder if what movies were really doing was closing this gap between the body and the soul. Movies affect us - deeply. So when Johnny declares, "nobody puts baby in the corner," it resonates powerfully with the parts of us that want to love - with the parts of us that want to be loved. I think movies allows us to see people in a state where the truth and the motivations of the soul begin to, once again, overpower the physical form.

In the poem, "Our Deepest Fear," Marianne Williamson states:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The line in this poem that really gets to me is:

... as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Movies are unrealistic. This is because they portray man not as he is, but as he wants to be - as his soul yearns to be. And, when we see it in Hollywood, it liberates us - it gives us permission to do the same. So, if a movies' departure from reality allows us to be even 1% more loving, 1% more appreciative, or 1% more understanding of others, we can finally begin to transcend our own reality.

Reader Comments


... as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Most of us have experienced this on a sports team or at the workplace. When you are around other talented, hard-working people you tend to raise your game. You can, to a certain extent, feed off of their energy and bring yourself to heights you hadn't thought possible.

Nice article, Ben.



100% agreed! While I'm not a big sports guy, I do see that in the work area and also in the Gym. One of the things I am almost blown away by is how positive everyone in a gym settings is. In a context in which ego has the potential to go bad, I am in awe of how people in a gym are supporting and encouraging. Rarely do you see someone who is boastful. Often do you see someone who wants to HELP you achieve your own success.


I'll add an example to the acting itself. I've done some acting, and I have been around actors who didn't know their own lines, stumbled over mine, and completely ad-libbed, which can be a good thing, but can be hard to follow when the other actors know their lines and are following them...and when someone is ad-libbing and throwing random stuff in there that doesn't even make sense to the story, the other actors have to work double time to try to get everything together in the right place. On the other hand, I have also acted with some stellar actors, and I have noticed that it is often that some good actors can pull up the other actors' games.

Also, I wonder if there are some who seem to be able to see people as a whole more easily than others? This seems to be the case. There seems to be some people who are only into a person's physical being, and others who truly don't seem effected by it.


@Ben, I don't know whether you'd consider this a religious observation, but it seems to me, in a sense, movies multiply how many lives we get to have.

Each movie is like a little extra life we get to live, if only for a short time.


Acting can, in a way, ruin the movie-goer's experience. I used to be able to get so caught up in movies and their plots, and totally engaged. But lately, I haven't been able to as much with a lot of movies. I try not to ruin for other people by keeping my thoughts to myself the whole time.

It could also be the lack of quality in the way movies are made nowadays. It seems that things have gotten really cool and so totally rad in the special effects department, that sometimes, it seems that a lot of movie companies are sacrificing great acting for great special effects. When an actor or actress is good, he or she can usually engage the viewer, even if the script is crappy.

There also seems to be a total lack of original ideas these days, and plots, situations, etc., seem to be played over, and over, and over again, just maybe with slightly different-looking actors/actresses, or different genders or characters, but a lot of the plots seem to start sounding like a broken record.

I don't know...movies are just not made the same way these seems there is so much less sustenance. I noticed the other day, when I was watching Beaches...I consider that to be a pretty good movie with a good actual plot...that it's just different watching or re-watching an older movie. I can't put my finger on all the differences...but I did notice that the older movies are more age-appropriate, even for youngins. It seems these days, the movies are all about sex and there is so much cussing in them, it's enough to make me blush when I am watching them and forget going with a date anymore to the movie theatre and watching without getting embarrassed!!!! But back to my point about the youngins....nowadays, it seems necessary to put everything all over the screen. It's not that in the older movies that it wasn't a part of the movie, but it was implied. Sometimes, it was just said outright, but they didn't feel the need to do it on the screen in front of everybody. Call me old fashioned, but I do enjoy a bit of subtlety. When they imply it or talk about it, you can still explain it to the youngins however you want, but it's something that is really hard to explain when they are just humping each other all over the screen and that seems to be the ONLY plot in the entire movie. I guess I am just ready for movies to be made again old school style, like they were in the old days.


There's obviously no such thing as a soul. There's no mystical "true self" ghost in our bodies. (That's nihilistic, to place value beyond our actual selves and bodies, beyond reality.) And we don't transcend reality by changing, we simply change.

We are bugs on a rock in space, hopping about for a brief moment in time and then gone, no different from any other animal or species that had a moment. We're simply the most clever and sensitive and feel the need to justify existence occasionally.


@Ben - Thanks for the movie suggestion. I'd seen the trailer and was very interested in watching it.

Movies is a medium for art, just as the written word, music and song, painting, etc...

All of these have the potential for moving us for better or for worse.

This can be true of religions as well. It's the feeling that we are led, pulled, compelled to be more than we could be alone. Some may call that an epiphany. Some may call that positive thinking. Whatever the case, it's clear that we, as a species, are capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for.

There are not many movies I've seen that I can say made me reevaluate my life. Phenomenon was one such movie.

The idea of having full use of your mind was fascinating to me.

My favorite part is when he says that given the choice between "supernatural" intervention for the gift of his mind, or the natural, albeit fatal, reason, he chooses the fatal one. Because it means that he's not special. That all people have the same potential.

Thanks for the topic.


the GYM is REALITY (u can either lift that weight or u cant)... all i learned, i learned from the gym and surfing

If you get a chance
see the movie "I AM"

i think its right up yer alley
and its great




That looks like a really interesting movie. I'll definitely try to get a hold of it. It's not on (where I rent my movies).


Thanks a lot! Glad you like it. I'll check out the music. I definitely get a lot of inspiration from music!


I remember seeing Phenomenon, but I don't remember too much about it. I think the problem is I also saw Michael (the one where he's an Angel) and every time I try to conjure up the memories, I keep seeing Michael :) I'll have to check it out again. It's been like 16 years.

"The idea of having full use of your mind was fascinating to me."

... 1000% agree with that! Even seeing people who have [what I perceive to be] amazing ability, kind of blows my mind. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing better than talking to people who are smarter than me :)

I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in human rights. I believe that we can afford to give more of these gifts to the world around us because it costs us nothing to be decent and kind and understanding. And, I want you to know that when you land on this site, you are accepted for who you are, no matter how you identify, what truths you live, or whatever kind of goofy shit makes you feel alive! Rock on with your bad self!
Ben Nadel