Tag Archives: heaven

277 – The Angel Experiment: Everyday Miracles With Corin Grillo

Angels feel like something for little kids and Christmas trees. It’s Della Reese performing heartwarming miracles on cheesy Sunday night television or the goofy Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life. Or even a hearbroken Nicolas Cage staring forelornly at the ocean from City of Angels. They’re something silly, like a figurine in your Grandma’s cabinet or laying on a cloud in Heaven playing a harp. And of course the most famous painting of angels in the world doesn’t help.

Raphael’s cherubim from The Sistine Madonna aren’t even the focus of the painting, they’re just looking up at the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, but they’re the part that everyone remembers

That’s the touchy-feely Hollywood version. But the word “angel” just comes from the Greek word for messenger which is all the angels were, translated to from the original Bible stories in Hebrew. And in the Old Testament, they’re terrifying. They are the instruments of God’s will. Which means they do things like annihilate Sodom and Gomorrah when God thinks the city is too wicked or defend the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword. They are the forces of Nature carrying out the vengeance of the Almighty, supernatural soldiers of Heaven.

But that’s just the Christian version. Angels are in almost every religion as spiritual beings who carry divine messages, which are sometimes helpful and sometimes bad news. Even Satanists have angels, but they’re atheists who use the fallen angels from Christian theology as metaphors. In fact, angels aren’t even mentioned as having wings for the most part, that’s just a creation of artists in the Middle Ages.

Author and therapist, Corin Grillo

Corin Grillo was a licensed psychotherapist struggling with depression of her own when she prayed to the angels for something that would transform her life from the pit of sadness that she was living in. Shortly after, she witnessed something in the street that she could only describe as a miracle and she began to start seeing signs of angelic influence wherever she went. That miracle in the street altered her life forever and she began to climb out of her depression and find start finding meaning and purpose in life.

Corin started introducing angel invocation into her psychotherapy sessions and seeing results with patients. Whatever was going on, it was working and it led her to develop an online forum where people can connect with each other and try to share miracles and developments in their own lives. That formed the basis of The Angel Experiment, Corin’s guidebook on a 21-day program to try to invoke the power and healing of the angels in your own life.

The Angel Experiment: A 21-Day Magical Adventure To Heal Your Life

Corin says that you don’t have to be religious to experience angelic activity in your own life, you just have to go through with the rituals and meditation. After reading the book and going on my own Angel Experiment, it’s interesting because I feel like it’s like Chaos Magick. You’re invoking entities, you’re setting your intentions, you’re journaling your feelings and thoughts looking for synchronicities that happened and gratitude in the good things in your life.

Much like Chaos Magick, or as Dr. Dean Radin talks about in Real Magic, it doesn’t really matter if you have rock solid faith or not, there’s something in the ritual that makes changes happen in your life. When you perform a ritual and set an intention and you try to invoke a supernatural being to intercede on your behalf, your subconscious goes to work. Whether it’s angels helping you or you’re praying to the Saints to ask God for a favor, or it’s one of the entities in the Lesser Key of Solomon, it’s the same thing. Supernatural or not, these prayers are the basis of faith and Corin Grillo’s Angel Experiment is as good of a place to start as any to get some meditation and positivity going every day.

In this conversation we discuss:

  • The miracle that started it all for her and pulled her out of her depression.
  • What happened when Corin started introducing angel work into her psychotherapy practice?
  • The importance of a “sacred space” in your home
  • Who are her favorite angels?
  • What does an angel sound like when she channels them?

Corin’s story of overcoming her melancholy and keeping fighting the good fight when she was thinking of quitting it all, is heartening whether you believe in angels or not. Her idea of everyday miracles that people can see in their own life is a way of showing gratitude for the good things that do happen. Her story plus the thought of angels as warriors (with flaming swords!) inspired this week’s track, “The Battle of Everyday”.

This is the battle of everyday
this is the war to fight the urge to end the pain
this is a call to arms to say
a hole in your head doesn’t make you Hemingway

Everyday everyday
We need more than a pill to make it go away
are you safe are you safe
Sometimes you want to disappear, sometimes you want to be erased

Tomorrow never comes
We get one moment that we can ever change
Please just don’t give up
and the better angels of our nature will fight with us one more day

This is the battle of everyday
this is the conflict of willpower versus hurt
this is the struggle where we pray
for the strength to keep ourselves out of the dirt.

Everyday everyday
where every single victory feels like it’s just in vain
are you safe are you safe
You’re not just up against the whole world, you’re fighting your own brain.

Tomorrow never comes
We get one moment that we can ever change
Please just don’t give up
and the better angels of our nature will fight for us one more day

Tomorrow never comes
We get one moment that we can ever change
Please just don’t give up
and the better angels of our nature will fight for us one more day

163 – Flatliners: Hollywood and the Near Death Experience

Looks like there is no intellectual property that the great minds of Hollywood are afraid of resurrecting. Twenty seven years after it originally premiered, they’re bringing back Flatliners as a quasi-reboot / stealth sequel. They’re probably getting the message that us geeks are getting tired of rebooting properties when they could basically create a new story with new characters while keeping it in the same universe and even just some kind of nod to the original can satiate fans who are looking for a continuation of the story.

Joel Schumacher made one of the 1980s most stylish and inventive horror films with The Lost Boys (a film we’ve talked about on this podcast a hundred times) and he took the main heavy from that film (a little actor by the name of Kiefer Sutherland) and made him the lead of his next movie, Flatliners.

Flatliners is a film about medical students who create Near Death Experiences for themselves (the flatline of the title) and then get resuscitated back to life. They’re looking for the last frontier, what happens after we die, what Shakespeare called “the undiscovered country from whose bourne no man returns”, well, unless you’re Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Billy Baldwin, Oliver Platt, or Julia Roberts.

What they find is a cosmic justice waiting for them, an accountability for their sins in life waiting for them. And those sins can now come back to haunt them in our world, brought back through the portal of the Near Death Experience. That’s the gist of the story and it’s still an effective horror film. We’ll see about the remake starring Ellen Page and Diego Luna (who are usually pretty great) and directed by the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director, Niels Arden Oplev (and written by the dude who wrote Source Code which is a solid Twilight Zone episode of a movie!)

Anyway, when you think of a Near Death Experience, you think of your life flashing before your eyes, a tunnel with a light at the end, and sometimes an Out of Body Experience where your spirit leaves your body and you watch what’s happening to you.

Well, science seems to have an answer for some of those aspects of NDEs, there are others that consistently confound modern science, including Out Of Body Experiences during clinical death (cardiac arrest at least) that are not quite explainable and in one case, seemingly impossible.

Then we go into celebrity Near Death Experiences, from Kiefer Sutherland’s own father Donald, to Johnny Cash, Gary Busey, and many more.

You know theyre father and son, right?
You know they’re father and son, right?

This week’s song is based on Dylan Thomas’ classic poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, with our own track about raging against the dying of the light. Here’s a headbanger about going out with a fight form our own flatline, “Pre-Emptive Strike”.

And when I’m hanging by a thread,
Tied to machines and half-dead,
and when you think it’s my final act,
don’t pull the plug,
I’m coming back.

The strength of my will protects me from harm,
I’m not going out with a needle in my arm.

I’ll not go down without a fight,
my will is my pre-emptive strike,
I’ll not go down without a fight,
I’ll not go gently into that good night.

And when you think I can’t go on,
And when you think I’m not that strong,
I will not die by my own hand,
I’ll hold my ground, I’ll make my stand.

The strength of my will protects me from harm,
I’m not going out with a needle in my arm.

I’ll not go down without a fight,
my will is my pre-emptive strike,
I’ll not go down without a fight,
I’ll not go gently into that good night.

86 – Convergence: Between Heaven and Hell with Writer/Director Drew Hall

First things first, our new release, American Monsters, is live and you can download the newest EP for free at http://www.sunspotuniverse.com – it’s three songs that were inspired by this podcast and we took them into the studio. You will love how these tracks turned out!

This episode features the writer and director of the film Convergence starring Clayne Crawford (from SundanceTV’s Rectify and who will be playing Mel Gibson’s role in the new Lethal Weapon reboot) and Ethan Embry (I loved him in That Thing You Do… but he was also zombie fodder in the latest season of The Walking Dead). Convergence, written and directed by Alabama-based filmmaker Drew Hall is a paranormal thriller in the Jacob’s Ladder vein.

Set in 1990s Atlanta (and you can tell that right away because of the Everclear and Toad The Wet Sprocket on the radio), a police detective gets caught in the explosion of an abortion clinic bombing by a religious extremist group and wakes up in a hospital caught in a nightmare scenario where he has to hunt down the leader of the extremist group who is causing mayhem all through the hospital.

In some more 90s awesomeness, the soundtrack was also partially composed by Helmet’s Page Hamilton. Betty was one of my favorite hard rock albums and Ben (the guitarist from Wendy and my band, Sunspot) used to jam out at rehearsal to “Unsung” in high school all the time.

So number one, is the movie any good? Yes. Convergence is a thoughtful horror film with some clever modern twists (the appearance of the Ghost Hunters-style paranormal investigation team). There’s a little bit of gore (my favorite is a scene that ahem… took the words right out of my mouth) and there’s some of the inescapability of dream-logic terror. One of the things I enjoyed most about it though was its treatment of religion.

Now I’m mostly used to seeing only a few kinds of religion in film:

1. The Catholic Church’s exorcists as wizards or priests as holy warriors in vampire movies.

Back when Peter Jackson was making horror films (but still usually about 25 minutes too long), his film Brain Dead has my personal favorite of the badass priest archetype (please do not watch this Youtube clip at work, it is NSFW all the way.)

2. Religious zealots as redneck murderers. Kevin Smith covered this one in Red State.

3. Faith-based films where atheists are engaging in a war on Christianity and God hands out miracles like mini Snickers on Trick or Treat night. Jennifer Garner went from The Invention Of Lying (Ricky Gervais’ love letter to atheism) to Miracles From Heaven, a new faith-based film where God basically saves her sick kid.

While these depictions of faith and religion are what we’re used to and the antagonist of Convergence sometimes veers into Red State territory, the nice thing about Convergence is that its themes of redemption and faith are given plenty of breathing room.

Now, to be fair, you’re not going to get Diary Of A Country Priestlevels of cinematic spiritual contemplation and some of the dialogue is a little too on the nose, but it’s nice that a horror movie with supernatural elements can feature spirituality upfront and center without sanitizing the religious elements or making everyone who has faith look crazy. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

Now, if you’d like to watch the film without any spoilers, then you can find links to download it here or you can grab it on Blu-Ray at your local Best Buy. Then come back and listen to the podcast!

In my conversation with Convergence auteur, Drew Hall, we go in deep on the influences behind the film. From the paranormal reality TV-influenced ghost-hunting team (called G*A*P*S*, ha!) to the real-life abortion clinic bombings of his youth to the details that he took directly from Dante’s epic 13th-century poem, Purgatorio.

dante purgatory convergence
The map of Dante’s island of Purgatory

So, if you’re not familiar with Purgatory, it’s a Roman Catholic concept that if you died and your soul is still stained by sin, but what you did isn’t really that bad to send you to Hell, then you just get punished for a little while before you get to go to Heaven. It’s also a good way for the church to explain what happens to babies who die before they get baptized or people who lived good lives before Jesus, so they never had a chance to believe in the guy.

Basically it’s a place where everyone sorts their leftover business out before they get to the next world. It pops up in a lot of films and TV shows, like The Sopranos, The Leftovers, What Dreams May Come, Wristcutters: A Love Story, and one of the crappy Hellraiser sequels (don’t bother with any of those films after the second one.)

In Dante’s poem, Purgatory is an island (huh, wonder where people might have gotten the idea that Lost was set there…) with a mountain on it that has several levels where souls are being punished in for different sins  in order for them to redeem themselves and make it to the top of the mountain. Once they get to the top, they have fulfilled their punishment and they can finally get into Heaven.

Drew even uses Dante’s different levels of Purgatory as inspiration for what happens on each floor of the hospital and how the lead character, Ben, has to advance through the hospital and make his way to his own redemption by the end of the film, all the while being hunted by the Ethan Embry’s maniacal villain.

Drew’s interest in the paranormal stems from having his own experiences as well. He tells us a couple of stories in the interview, but my favorite is getting a little otherworldly help while almost drowning. Here’s how he tells it:

[I was] whitewater rafting… but I flipped out of the boat and we got caught in a whirlpool type thing stuck in a whirlpool-type and when I flipped out, I got stuck underneath the raft. And the raft is fairly heavy, much less loaded down with six adults. You float up because you’re wearing a [vest]… I’m trapped under this thing for, according to accounts,  two or three minutes, luckily I was a swimmer at the time so I could hold my breath. 

But I had to come face to face with the idea that I might not get out… As audible as I’m talking to you now underwater, as insane as it sounds… I heard “look left” and as I did, there was a shaft of light that looked as solid as a pole sticking out. And I reach for it thinking maybe they had found a stick. My hand went through it and then my buddy had gotten out of the boat and grabbed my wrist…

It could have been fight or flight, I understand, but to me that became reality… it planted that seed.

Hall has some more interesting paranormal stories that he shares with us (including a scary shadow person story!) and he isn’t done with films inspired by real-life paranormal activity, he’s currently working on a script about the latest paranormal urban legend to hit the Internet, Black-Eyed Children (who will get their own episode soon!)

Drew Hall is a filmmaker to keep an eye on because he has a unique cinematic vision and you can tell he cares deeply about the craft. There’s a literacy and depth to his work that is too rare in horror and thriller circles.

Since this conversation centered on horror movies and one of my favorite movie directors and composers, John Carpenter, has a new album out on April 15th (Lost Themes II), we thought we’d do a little electronic instrumental soundtrack homage this week and call it “Purgatory”.