Stories rule the world. Which stories we believe and which ones we refuse to believe control everything we do. They control all relationships, either building or destroying them. Obviously, some stories are true and others are not. Choosing to believe the true ones and rejecting those that lie should be the core of human existence. And each one of us is living out a very personal story. For too many, those personal stories are so filled with pain that the man or woman in the middle of them can barely stand to live. They do whatever they can to escape. The entertainment industry of Hollywood is built entirely on stories and not just the ones that make it to the screen. It’s built on the personal stories of the creators. Out of those flow scripts. And out of scripts flows a view of life.
I’m a professional storyteller. Right now the focus for that is The Burning Zone podcast. I named it after a short-lived series I created that appeared on UPN back in the mid-90’s. What happened writing and producing that series is a little story about hell for me. I won’t tell it right now. Several of my Facebook friends were involved in that series. They know.
Comments are coming in from people who are listening to the podcast. I appreciate all of them. I talk about a lot of things on it that sane humans are afraid to touch. For instance, I get into near death experiences, night terrors, UFO’s and abduction and dark spirit healing. And that’s only the start.
One of the craziest TV series I worked on was called M.A.N.T.I.S. Running the show was my old friend, Bryce Zabel. He’s a past president of the Television Academy and creator of the Dark Skies TV series. A couple of years ago he co-authored the book A.D. After Disclosure that deals with the potential impact of UFO disclosure on the world. He was kind enough to ask me to write a couple of paragraphs for his book about the Christian perspective toward the UFO phenomenon. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people around on the subject and we spent many hours in deep conversation. Those were great talks. That’s one of the things I love about Hollywood people. We don’t care if anyone thinks we’re crazy.
Also on this podcast I talk about the Bible, the strangest and most wonderful book in the world. But you should know that I don’t do it from the perspective of being a theologian or professional Bible scholar. I’ve never been a pastor. Churches should be thankful for that. I could never put up with all the crap that pastors, priests and rabbis have to deal with. I’d just kill people and let God deal with them. Hang a few idiots from the choir loft and the whole congregation would settle down. It’s so much easier to be patient and understanding of dead people. So here’s what I do on the podcast. I approach all the subjects, including the Bible, from three sets of experiences:
First, as an old soldier. All soldiers, especially old combat soldiers, are endless storytellers. Get a group of old soldiers together and it doesn’t take a couple of beers before for the stories start flowing. Several years ago, we were visiting the Washington, D.C. area. Carel got a chance to meet a group of her cousins that she’d never met before. They invited us to their home for a barbecue. Several of her cousins were vets from my war era. One of them had been a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Needless to say, the old vet crap started flowing. “Got yourself shot up, huh? Couldn’t keep your ass down. Yeah, you took a couple of bullets, but you got to sleep in a nice, dry bed every night. I slept in the mud.” There’s an old adage, women compliment each other and don’t mean it. Men insult each other and don’t mean it.
At the barbecue, all of us old vets were given a simple assignment. Go outside and cook the meat on the grill while the women prepared the rest of the meal. After an hour or so, the women came out wondering what in the world was taking so long. We hadn’t even started cooking. We were telling one dark, awful story after another and screaming with laughter. These were guys that I had just met, but we were instant old friends. Every vet will understand exactly what I’m saying. So I approach all the subjects on the podcast including the Bible as an old soldier. How do you stay alive and sane in a world that’s growing darker and more dangerous by the day? Why am I a Christian? In the face of life and death, I consider it the only rational alternative. But the stories of old soldiers can be very dark.
Second, I approach subjects on the podcast as a mentalist. As you may know, I am a member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the world-famous Magic Castle of Hollywood. What is a mentalist? A mentalist is a specialist in illusion and delusion. It has been said that a mentalist uses the five senses to create the illusion of a sixth. As a mentalist I can appear to read minds, control free choices, predict the future, and even make inanimate objects obey my mental commands. These are demonstrations of strange power. Some of my Facebook friends have experienced one of my programs.
As a mentalist you realize how easy it is to utterly fool people. Even the most intelligent people are like sheep. For me this is a problem. As a mentalist, in doing a program I can never allow people to go away believing I have psychic power. While never telling anyone exactly how I perform strange demonstrations, at a certain point I stop and as clearly as possible inform my audiences that everything they have seen is an illusion, a trick of the mind, and that I have no more psychic power than a wooden chair. I just know simple and subtle secrets about how to create illusion and delusion.
Do you know that even after being as clear as possible about all of that, after a program there have been people who have come up and said, “I know you told us it was a trick, but when you looked at me I could feel you entering my mind.” I would argue with them. THAT is the illusion. Whatever you felt it was completely inside your own skull and I was never there. If I really had such power, why would I say it was all a fake? And on and on.
Mentalism is built on weaving stories that take control of your mind. Why is it so powerful? Because people don’t want to know the truth. They want to believe lies. I can’t live with that which definitely limits opportunities to perform. I insist on telling the truth. Ultimately, that means in a presentation that I talk about Jesus Christ, who said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” There’s going to come a day, and it isn’t far off, when I will have to answer to the Greatest King of the universe for everything I’ve ever said and done. I’ve got quite enough to answer for without consciously lying to people about my “psychic” power.
Many years ago, Carel and I did a series of mentalism programs in northern Minnesota. They were sponsored by Youth for Christ and had been advertised in the local newspaper. I made a sealed prediction weeks in advance about headlines, with the newspaper keeping my prediction until the night of the show when it was opened by a committee. (My mentalist friends will know exactly how all of this is done.)
The first show was in a theater and it was one of the strangest performing experiences of my life. I didn’t realize it, but half the audience was made up of New Age occultists who hated me because they thought I was a debunker (partly true) and the other half was made up of Christians who hated me because they thought I was a psychic out to corrupt their faith. The first person I called to come up from the audience to help with a demonstration glared at me and said, “I’m not helping you.” That was a fun night.
Carel and I performed Beyond Reality, for churches and other groups across the mid-west. Then we moved to California and it ended. Partly that was because my career got very busy and I didn’t have the time to maintain the craft. But there was another reason as well. Churches were afraid to invite us in. I discovered that California evangelical/charismatic/Pentecostal Christians were some of the most frightened, superstitious people I had ever met. In one of the few programs we did in recent years, I had people get up and leave in fear before I could get to the point in the program where I told them what was going on.
So I approach the podcast with a mentalist’s understanding of how powerful stories can be, especially lying stories. But I am not a materialist or rationalist. I know from my own deep study how Dark Powers of evil really work and what they can do. And that is very frightening indeed.
Third I approach the podcast as a Hollywood storyteller, a former writer, executive producer/showrunner and television series creator. During my career over the span of just a few years, I sold three dramatic series to various networks. Each of those series was the only new dramatic series that network picked up for the fall season.
My friends in the industry know how impossible that is. It borders on the miraculous. Many excellent television writers go through their entire careers and never see a single series that they have created appear on the screen. What it meant for me was brutal conflict. I’ve been shot so many times I think my body is mostly air. Why was it so? Because the great battle of the world is between opposing stories and storytellers. If you care more about telling the truth than you do about success, well…get ready for war.
So the things I talk about on the podcast that deal with the Bible are things I have learned on the battlefields of life and story. As you listen, you will learn what I believe and some of what I have experienced. That may be disturbing to you. All I can promise is that it’s honest. In a month, I turn 71. In The Burning Zone (the fiery zone of my life and career) I tell you what I have learned and what I know to be true.
Thanks for listening.