Last night Deepak Chopra spoke of Jesus. It was the eve of the publication of his book, The Third Jesus, (Harmony, 2008) which is currently a high-ranking Amazon bestseller. Dressed in an elegant black Sherwani, (an Indian long coat with a Nehru collar), Chopra stepped forward from the nave of Manhattan's St. Mary the Virgin Church, and positioned himself between the first rows of pews, speaking casually to the six hundred people assembled by the New York Open Center.
"When Jesus said, "I'm the son of God," Chopra tells the audience, "His meaning wasn't 'I'm the son of the Boss,' or I'm his son and you're not.'" Instead, in Chopra's view, that declaration invites us all to realize our own divinity. While Chopra honors what he calls the first two Jesus: Jesus, the real man, and the Jesus, "built up over thousands of years by theologians and ...scholars," Deepak focuses attention on the third Jesus, a model/teacher of universal/Christ consciousness.
Chopra's definition of consciousness reaches beyond the confines of biochemisty, which defines it as a brain secretion, to physic, in which consciousness is seen as a "field of uncertainty containing all potentialities that collapse via space-time events into consensual reality."
What consensual reality are we jointly creating?
Chopra sees mankind poised at a crossroads. "Will we destroy ourselves or heal the rift in the collective soul?" he asks.
To Chopra, we have the potential to actualize Christ consciousness just as Jesus, Buddha, and other great beings did. But it's up to each of us to fulfill that potential. From many passages of the bible, Chopra singles out certain teachings as tools for spiritual contemplation.
"The Kingdom of Heaven is within you."
"Ask and ye shall receive."
"Abide in me as I abide in you.'
I must admit that "Abide in me as I abide in you,' really struck a chord. Perhaps it was Chopra's sonorous voice or the setting, redolent with incense, but through Chopra's merging of Eastern and Western mysticism, I saw that in some mysterious way, some kernel of self, hidden within, is also the pervasive essence, which surrounds and permeates us.
Without a doubt, Chopra knows his bible, although he contends that the many contributors to the New Testament have sometimes confused Jesus' core view. In particular, he takes issue with notions of sin and retribution, as well as with sexism, homophobia, and other forms of exclusion. "It's not healthy to seek divinity while coming from a place of guilt and shame," Chopra the doctor reminds us.
Chopra recommends translates the teachings into self-inquiry, not condemnation of others. "Is my behavior consistent with my beliefs? What is the quality of my intention?" he offers as examples of his own process.
Belief is less important that experience and behavior, Chopra implies, since all too often "belief can be a cover up for insecurity. Once you actually experience the reality of Christ consciousness, you don't have to profess belief in it."
A number of distinguished Christian theologians praise The Third Jesus. Whether or not other Christians will appreciate this foray into Christianity, Chopra is not, as some might expect, a newcomer. The famous doctor- author who seamlessly integrates science and spirituality is himself the product of a Christian education.
"At home, I was immersed in the Hindu traditions and rituals of my family, while at school, I was taught by the Irish Christian brothers," Chopra tells the audience.
In the questions and answers that follow, one young woman asks, "What does Jesus think of your book?"
"I hope he likes it," Chopra responds, "since Christ consciousness is within you, I hope you like it."
In a thinly veiled question, one audience member tries to suss out whether Chopra supports either Obama or Clinton.
"Whoever wins," Chopra declares, "The fact that we can entertain as presidential candidates a woman and a non-Anglo Saxon male shows that we are at the edge of a shift in consciousness."
"What makes Jesus unique?" asks another audience member.
"Throughout history, many people gave us Christ consciousness, as Jesus did," Chopra responds. "But Jesus gave us his story--which many have rightly called, 'the greatest story ever told.'"