Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Snap: Deepak Chopra's "Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul"

From the January 2010 E-Block.
Deepak Chopra's Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul (RIRS) provides an unusual opportunity to consider Chopra apart from attempts to bend Biblical texts to his purposes (though he does do that now and then even here). This is not so much a religious book as it is a book about how to stay healthy -- mentally and physically -- the Chopra way. Naturally, it advises the reader to follow a number of practices from Eastern religion like meditation, and a belief in pantheism, such that everything, even rocks, has a conscious awareness. No surprise there, though still no answer to why, if this system is so wonderful, it produces such poor social results in India. 

So in this review, all we'll do is make three thematic observations. 

The first observation is that Chopra is given over frequently to making exceptional claims that he supports with no documentation, other than perhaps personal anecdote. When for example are told of a miraculous healing [23] or the results of biofeedback [28], we would like something to support this besides personal anecdote by Chopra as a questionable witness. In modern times, we would demand the same of Benny Hinn; for Jesus, we would need the corroboration that comes from the evidence for the Resurrection. 

Second, Chopra here habitually reckons mundane results to have mystical significance. It is unnecessary to appeal to "energies" to explain things like why our attitude changes when we head towards something we perceive as positive [36, for example]. Chopra's "energies," like Tolle's "pain-body," a contrivance of metaphysical quackery. 

Third -- Chopra's refusal to provide documentation is no surprise, for his philosophy regards epistemology as a waste of time. After telling one incredible story, he avers that "belief and skepticism are both beside the point" [122]. The "inner support that comes from your own awareness" is what you really need to rely on. Later he says that "[e]very experience this day brought was subjective" which means "this day occurred in awareness, nowhere else, and you are awareness." [262] With that kind of epistemology, why would you need to prove anything you say? 

There's not much more than that to RIRS: "Plenty of basic, sound, common sense advice on living, with a superfluous layer of Eastern mysticism" pretty well sums up the content. I frankly do not understand Chopra's allure to readers, but I suspect that if I adopted his epistemology myself, I might come a little closer to getting it.

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