The popularity of Deepak Chopra can’t surprise anyone who’s observed the rising incoherence that’s been flooding modern discussions about god. Most of us have heard — or perhaps ourselves even said — very vague things about just who or what god is. Assertions like, “God is something beyond ourselves,” or, “God is transcendence,” or “God is love” seem to be proliferating as members of our consumer society disillusioned with Old Time Religion seek meaningful ways to exist in an increasingly materialisic world.
Despite the vapidity inherent in such conceptions of the divine, this hasn’t prevented hucksters like Chopra from profiting immensely off of it. Indeed, a big part of the reason this sort of hokum is popular is because it’s utterly devoid of substance and is prima facie inoffensive, which is more than can be said of the Abrahamic religions that for thousands of years have produced horrendous acts of intolerance and cruelty.
For a quintessential example of the kind of New Age garbage that’s been permeating society, here’s a video from the latest post on Chopra’s website, in which he talks with CNN’s Kyra Phillips (though not on CNN). In five minutes of speaking, Chopra manages to say nothing at all.
“I think God has a future, we have a future and they’re all connected. As I’ve said many times, God is our highest instinct to know ourselves. We have questions like why do we exist, what is the meaning of existence, what is the meaning of death? Do we have a soul? And if God exists does he care about us? Because if this God is this infinite void of nothingness that is you know mechanically spewing out the universe you know like a fountain that is gushing water. Who cares if it doesn’t matter to me? Do I have a connection to this source? And I think God has a future if we actually understand what I call the religious experience. That we can know how to transcend, which means to go beyond thought. Because I’ve said no system of thought can give us access to reality. System of thought creates a model and then you are stuck with the model. Scientific model. Theological model. Religious model. Therefore there’s some real insight in that phrase, ‘Be still and know that I am God.” Because when you’re still then all that’s left is awareness, is existence, all that’s left is being.'”
Somewhere, a logical positivist just threw himself off a ledge.
The exchange goes on in this fashion for its duration, with Chopra at one point saying, “God is awareness. In which the questions are asked and in which the questions are answered. And without awareness you couldn’t have cognition, perception, anything. You couldn’t have this animated body.”
This is the crux of New Age theology: quasi-reassuring-sounding gibberish that makes ambiguous appeals to the spiritual. These are perfect examples of statements that are “not even wrong,” since they cannot be deemed true or false for the simple fact that the reasoning behind them lacks the basic criteria by which arguments are assessed. There is nothing in Chopra’s rhetoric to grab onto and tease out logically. There is no readily identifiable chain of thought. There is only a series of non-falsifiable assertions made in the loosest and slipperiest of terms.
Moreover, what makes Chopra potentially dangerous is his advocacy of alternative medicine based on the pseudoscience of “quantum healing,” which baselessly presumes a connection between quantum mechanics and consciousness. According to this “model,” the mind can heal the body by thinking positive thoughts, which in turn create positive molecules. Given his popularity in some circles, we have to wonder how many people have forgone viable treatments for diseases in favor of Chopra’s metaphysical snake oil.
It’s difficult to tell whether New Age spirituality will gain more traction as Western society moves further away from the Judeo-Christian god. Certainly, this nonsense might be a less odious alternative than the misogynistic and homophobic bigot in the sky we’ve come to know over the last few millennia. But this hardly means it should be a welcome development, and it could create a whole new legion of gullible disciples all too willing to surrender their intellects to new and improved charlatans.