First impressions of The Discovery

(Spoiler alert: the following post discusses the Netflix original movie The Discovery in give-it-away detail. If you want to watch the film unfiltered, stop reading and start watching.)

For some people, the idea that there is an afterlife where our spirits go after we’ve died strikes them as a very tall tale. They see no evidence for it; they don’t support it. They chortle, groan, roll eyes, shake heads at any suggestion that life goes on after the brain is toast.

For me, the tall tale depicted in the new Netflix original movie starring Robert Redford, The Discovery, involves another part of the plot. Not the soul survival part. Rather, the mass suicide part. The film wants us to believe that after scientist Dr. Thomas Harbor (Redford) invents a machine to prove the existence of an afterlife, over four million people commit suicide within two years.

Why do they do that? Well, why does the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. In the movie the phrase is “to get there.”

Getting where, exactly, is not spelled out.

Hollywood movies don’t like definitive explanations with anything involving woo-woo, like what was really going on in Field of Dreams or Phenomenon or K-PAX or Powder. My hunch is that somewhere up the movie production food chain, someone says not to mess with religious beliefs and risk a big drop in box office from offended church-goers. The Discovery sidesteps most explanations.

I’d be more accepting of the scenario if I’d never read any afterlife research. It might make sense in a snap judgment kind of way. If people thought a bullet to the head could give them instant access to “there” (because it can’t be outed as heaven, astral plane, hypothesized next dimension, or anything but there), I could see millions doing it.

In the film, people eagerly leap at any exit strategy. Got cancer? They celebrate because death is freedom. Rich and famous people supposedly kill themselves (off camera) by the hundreds. I guess living the American Dream isn’t good enough for them. As the old M*A*S*H song goes, “Suicide is painless/it brings on many changes.”

It’s just that it seems like a very poor choice to make from what I have learned about the afterlife.


The movie ignored so much of the current afterlife research reported in books, presentations, afterlife groups, videos all over YouTube, and by psychic mediums, to name a few. Those smart people in The Discovery function inside a knowledge bubble; they should have learned how to use a search engine.

While promoting the film, Robert Redford agreed with NBC Today host Matt Lauer that his character miscalculated the impact that his discovery would have on society. The scientist didn’t see the suicides coming. The doctor also stood by for six months while the first million offed themselves, and then he decided that maybe he should request an interview and attempt an intervention by going public.

So, um, like he was the only afterlife expert the media could interview? A million suicides? How lazy can lamestream media get? My everyday Facebook feed includes a bunch of experts who could jump in with some cautionary information.

The movie also did not include two-way communication between the dimensions. We had no sense of what the other side might say about the wisdom or lack of wisdom of self-induced ascension. Dr. Harbor apparently proved there was an afterlife without chatting with any residents of the dimensions he discovered.

In any of this life’s soul phone research I am familiar with, scientists in the flesh collaborate with scientists in spirit both through mediums and through devices that measure a presence. There is two-way communication. (Books by Dr. Gary Schwartz describe this process in detail, especially The Afterlife Experiments and The Sacred Promise.) Personalities on the other side know what people here are up to, almost as if they had a one-way mirror into our world. They would know the state of Harbor’s research as well as some probable outcomes, like get ready for four million cross-overs.

The Discovery did not include this component. There was no schmoozing from the other side despite all those suicides. It’s as if every medium alive is fast asleep, and none of those million suicides wanted to say, “Hey, I made it!”

Harbor’s proof of an afterlife involved neuroscience more than communication with spirits. He measured brain waves leaving the body at a subatomic level on a journey to “the next plane of existence.” The science in this movie apparently had nothing to do with clairvoyance, clairaudience, or clairsentience.


Also missing from The Discovery was near-death and out-of-body experiences.

Millions of people here have had near-death experiences—23 million was the last number I heard. They woke up in non-physical dimensions. Add to that the people who have learned the art of deliberate, out-of-body travel. Very few of those people—the ones who have actually been there—would choose suicide as a way to escape. That doesn’t mean that people haven’t or wouldn’t do it, but four million in two years?

Most of NDE and OBE travelers learn that reality is more than material. They learn that there is a purpose to life in any dimension, here and there. The popular conception is that this is Earth School. We come here for a reason. Life is the way it is here by design as part of the curriculum. We deliberately choose hardships we face.

Suicides in The Discovery are attempts to escape from grief, pain, and suffering. People kill themselves without knowing anything about what this next dimension actually is. It’s something of a good metaphor for how absorbed in pain so many people today are. We seem to be slowly creating the kind of dystopian world much of Hollywood and science fiction specialize in showing us. The film might make a case that maybe we should make life on earth more livable for everyone here and let the afterlife take care of itself.


The characters in this film are walking soap operas, and misery loves lots of company. I noticed in the first scene that even with all the studio lighting shown set up in the living room to illuminate a TV interview, the colors were creep-out murky. I presume that this gloomy cinematography was on purpose, but I don’t know what that purpose was. (Maybe that everyone needed to be enlightened? Hmmm.)

This was not a fun group. Laughter, smiles, and optimism were in short supply. If I were somehow stuck in that world, like those kids who were stuck in Pleasantville, I might contemplate suicide, too. As it was, the characters already seemed deadly depressed or depressing.

By contrast, any afterlife research I encounter is anything but depressing. It’s a good thing that afterlife researchers in our world are much more visible and proactive than those in the movie.

In real life, whatever that is, the media buzz would drown out everything but commercials. Mediums, shrinks, seminar leaders, afterlife researchers, suicide-prevention experts, even legal assisted suicide professionals would swarm into the mix. In this film, they were apparently as helpless to stop this wave of suicides as an old man trying to stop a tsunami with his cane.

In fairness, many found the film to be interesting and thought-provoking. I would hope that these people would find their way to an afterlife conference or a selection of YouTube videos to find out all the amazing things going on.

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