A Higher Reality

Deepak Chopra on Why God Still Matters

With the world filled with suffering, there's an incentive to look beyond the horizon, says Deepak Chopra.

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There are many signs that God is a dead letter (if not actually dead), and one sign that he has a future. The many signs circulate around the rise of science, as almost everyone realizes. When Freud called religion a rearguard action to defend the indefensible, he wasn’t sneering. He was representing the change in worldview that science brought with it. A rational approach to the universe deposed the Book of Genesis, while two world wars settled anyone’s hash who thought of God as a benign father who loved his children. The bomb raised the specter of Jehovah bent on destroying the world not by flood but by fire.

I set out many years ago to show that there’s another way to view God, as the source of consciousness and the vital creative spring from which we get our mind, creativity, and above all, our ability to evolve. God is on the move. That’s the one hopeful sign. Once you drop the storybook image of a patriarch sitting on his throne above the clouds, room is made for a different story.

It’s an ancient story, largely from the East, that connects this world with higher reality. For the sake of simplicity, Eastern images of God have a face and a gender. But to call God “he” or “she” doesn’t get at the essence. The essence of God is pure consciousness, infinite possibilities, and endless unfoldment. Measured by those markers, humans are made in God’s image, which is cause for enormous optimism.

The problem all along, whether you look at the Book of Job, the New Testament, or the lives of the saints, was that we reversed the scheme: we created God in our own image. This was inevitable. The human mind is limited; God is infinite. There is no possibility for a limited mind to grasp an infinite one except in small fragments, and these fragments, once ossified into religions, became the true God for millions of people, depending on their culture.

God without any image sits at the heart of every faith, and once we get over our ingrained skepticism, disillusion, and broken hearts, God will continue to evolve, for the simple reason that humans never stop evolving. The leap that will resurrect God can only happen through personal experience. To know God by standing apart and analyzing the situation doesn’t work. It works for skeptics because they are working toward a preconceived conclusion. If they met Christ on the sidewalk, they’d still debunk God.

For a long time I addressed these issues without using the word God, which is too loaded, even explosive. Now I look around and see that the decline in attendance at temples and churches created a vacuum that is being filled. More seekers are willing to walk the path—that’s not a smarmy phrase but a reality. Either you accept the conventional wisdom that secular society has moved beyond God, or you take seriously three thousand years of testimony that something exists beyond the workaday world.

Since that world is filled with incredible suffering and frustrated ideals, there’s a huge incentive to look over the horizon. Even if you are a skeptic who is allergic to God in any form, what’s more interesting than your own consciousness and where it is headed? You have to know you are going to Las Vegas in order to get there. With God, the opposite is true. The less you expect, the greater the fulfillment. The pathless path, as it is known in India, starts anywhere and leads everywhere. Infinity needs no other set of directions.

Deepak Chopra’s latest book is God: A Story of Revelation (Harper One, Sept. 25, 2012).