For today’s #TheatricalThursday blog, I want to deconstruct one of the great rejuvenation movies, Ron Howard’s Cocoon (1985) from a sort of Jungian perspective. So what would the Swiss mystic, comparative religion scholar, and psychiatrist say about this movie and its central themes?
Here is a brief synopsis of the plot from Wikipedia:
About 10,000 years ago, peaceful aliens from the planet Antarea set up an outpost on the planet Earth, on an island later known to mankind as Atlantis. When Atlantis is destroyed, twenty aliens must be left behind. Antareans who return to pick them up disguise themselves as humans, rent a house with a swimming pool, and charge the water with “life force” to give the cocooned Antareans energy to survive the trip home. Elderly residents storm out of the retirement home and barge into the pool. Infuriated, Walter ejects them, but too many have been in the pool at once and drained its life force.
Kitty (Tahnee Welch), an alien crew member appearing as a beautiful female human, falls in love with Jack, who does the same. They decide to make love in the pool, in which Kitty enters nude and teaches Jack how to use energy to make love instead of using their bodies.
Walter explains that the cocoons cannot now survive the trip back to Antarea but will be able to survive on Earth. With the help of Jack, Ben, Arthur and Joe, the Antareans return the cocoons to the sea. The Antareans offer space aboard their ship to the old people. Bernie chooses to remain on Earth, but most of the others accept the invitation to travel to a world where they will never be ill, never age, and never die.
For some odd reason, I meet a lot of people these days who claim to have had near-death experiences that have transformed their consciousness. Once they feel you aren’t going to laugh at them, their stories are remarkably similar and the convergence of myth, spirituality, and what is normally considered “pseudo-science” is intriguing. You may say that “like attracts like” but unfortunately, I have never seen aliens or had a near-death experience, I don’t believe in religious dogmas, and I don’t have any proof that life force, consciousness, or extraterrestrials exist.
That said, let’s explore the common themes that Hollywood movies, mythology and religion, and these New Age first-hand voyagers that I meet all share:
1) Life force that can be used to rejuvenate
2) Energy as a form of consciousness that can be understood and harnessed
3) Benign Extraterrestrials from the past who invite mere humans to join them
——– In Hollywood ——–
The rejuvenating life force manifests in Star Wars Revenge of the Sith (2005), when the Emperor ages dramatically fighting Mace Windu.
Energy as a form of consciousness appears in Hollywood with The Matrix (1999), where malicious aliens use humans to generate a false reality by connecting their bodies and minds to this matrix.
Hollywood loves the benign extraterrestrial in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Cocoon (1977)
——– In religion and mythology ——–
Rejuvenating life force is the idea behind vampires, where the blood contains the substance needed.
Energy as a form of consciousness is the basis of the Vedic chakra energy system.
Benign extraterrestrial taking us up into God’s Kingdom is a common theme in the Jehovah’s Witness religion and many of the evangelical Christian movements who embrace “The Rapture”
——— In New Age pseudoscience ———
Rejuvenating life force – The transfer and manipulation of Chi (Qi) in Reiki healing
Energy as a form of consciousness – Unifying the fields of energy and matter by identifying everything as a form of consciousness is known as panpsychism and is explored in Dean Radin’s book: The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena”
Benign extraterrestrial – The New Age idea that certain Lightworkers or Pleiadian Starseeds are extraterrestrials incarnated on Earth to help with our literal or figurative ascension is a popular one.
So what does the positivist, materialistic perspective (aka “legitimate science”) think of these three themes?
Rejuvenating life force – Nothing measurable is lost when a person dies.
Energy as a form of consciousness – No one has ever thought something physical into or out of existence that we have ever seen.
Benign extraterrestrial – We have SETI arrays listening and so far, nothing has been detected.
That is the “party line”. Although…. for better or for worse, there have always been fringe workers affiliated with mainstream science that researched these areas.
Bioelectric phenomena, is an active area of research but I believe that finding one energy to rejuvenate is unlikely given the complexity of cellular signaling and functioning. (See also Orgone Energy of Reich (thanks for introducing me to this, Gentry!))
Energy/consciousness manipulation has long been an interest of mystics, researchers, and secret government programs types as is described in this entry about parapsychology.
As far as benign extraterrestrials, the idea of multidimensional reality with at least 11 dimension (although we only experience 3 or 4 dimensions) suddenly makes the notion of other beings amongst us not that hard to imagine. Maybe we just need to rewatch the 80’s cult movie. “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” if we really want to unify storytelling, metaphysics, and emerging science :-))