It's the winter of 1940. Father Athol Murray - "Pere" to most that know him - is an opinionated, chain-smoking, hard drinking parish priest at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. His strong opinions include his disdain for socialism as epitomized by the CCF party in Saskatchewan and the current war which has claimed too many lives including those of former students, needing to raise money to operate the College by whatever means, and not wanting others to emulate his vices - especially not wanting the students and women to smoke - while he blissfully enjoys those vices himself.
A research scientist (William Hurt) explores the boundaries and frontiers of consciousness. Using sensory deprivation and hallucinogenic mixtures from native American shamans, he explores these altered states of consciousness and finds that memory, time, and perhaps reality itself are states of mind.