For many years I have been attracted to — and repelled by — the writings of Deepak Chopra. If Billy Graham is our national pastor, Chopra may be our national guru. He's the author of 60 books. In most of them, Chopra takes Eastern religion, gives it a Western spin and markets it to millions.
Chopra may be the most successful spiritual writer of our time.
And, at times, I find myself wondering if he's not more interested in success than he is in spirituality.
When I read his books, I find clunky sounding sentences and clunky metaphors, as if the author slipped the manuscript into print while his editor's head was turned.
But then, out of nowhere, Chopra will capture an image or offer an insight that rings in the mind like a cathedral bell.
In short, he makes me a bit nuts.
And that goes for his latest book, "God: A History of Revelation."
Here, Chopra plays the role of spiritual detective, following concepts of God as they surface in the lives of Job, St. Paul, the Sufi poet Rumi and several other souls who Chopra feels have been ignited by the divine spark.
Along the way he purposely stirs fact together with fiction (another maddening tic). But if you hang with him — watching for the wheat amid the chaff — you will come across kernels worth keeping.
Here are a few:
"We label as God mere glimpses of higher reality, like seeing one figure in Da Vinci's 'Last Supper.' A glimpse fills us with wonder, but the whole thing has been missed." (from the prologue)
The lesson we learn from Job?
"Where God is, the ego cannot be."
And the lesson from Socrates?
"He taught that if you go deep enough, there is supreme light beyond the confusion and chaos, the id and ego, sex and the lust for power."
Rumi, the whirling dervish, wrote poetry long ago that is resurfacing today in collections, magazine and coffee table books. Writes Chopra:
"(Rumi) offers a personal God who is approachable with love and devotion, but the path of devotion makes the seeker disappear."
Finally, in the epilogue, Chopra leaves readers with a few nuggets of his own:4 comments on this story
"Some people are content to remain on the turbulent surface of (life's) river. They are fascinated by the constant activity, the ups and downs; life is a river-rafting trip. But nothing prevents a few people from focusing their attention on another level of consciousness, where calm, peace, wisdom, silence and the vastness of the cosmic mystery reside."
Love him or loathe him, believe him or belittle him, Deepak Chopra is always willing to dive under the surface of the river. What you — as his reader — make of the things he finds is between you, Chopra and that often elusive supreme light of God.