By Chelsea Roff
This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gotham Chopra about his new show, Holy Facts. Billed as "the show that treads the fine line between scientists, spiritualists, and psychotics," I was curious about Gotham's own take on the relationship between the three. We discussed the new age movement, logic/rationality, and the nature of belief. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Chelsea Roff: So I'm absolutely loving your show on The Chopra Well, Holy Facts. It definitely strikes me as the funniest offering on the channel, and perhaps reflects a bit of irreverent humor that people might not expect from the Chopra family. What was your inspiration in creating it?
Gotham Chopra: I think what's exciting for us -- my sister Mallika, dad Deepak, and me -- in regards to the channel is that it is a place where we can all do what is genuinely interesting to us. For me, I've always been curious about the strength of people's beliefs, their need really to believe in something, and the extremes to which that often leads. There's definitely an irreverence to Holy Facts too, which is probably because that's the lens through which I look at the world, often times a general disbelief about how serious we humans really take ourselves.
CR: Let's talk about Holy Facts' tagline: "the show where we tread the fine line that separates scientists, spiritualists, and the occasional psychotic." How do you see the "fine line" between spiritualist and psychotic? Do you think that religion -- and perhaps more importantly, the new age movement -- ever crosses that line?
GC: Crosses the line? I think both religion and the New Age movement have a permanent seat on the other side of the line!
Frankly speaking, I don't think any objective person familiar with modern cosmology and/or what we know as fact about science and evolution can reflect on most religious theory and make a strong case for it. If you strip away a lot of the holiness around most religious theories and/or mythologies, you are often left with some pretty wild ideas that most people would question your sanity if you declared them as fact. And therein resides the crux -- despite all of the above, we believe. I believe in things that defy logic and explanation. I experience things that defy what certain sciences tell us. The Universe is a strange place.
CR: You believe in things that defy logic and explanation? Can you share an example? I agree -- there are definitely tons of people (especially religious people) who hold irrational beliefs about the way the world works... but it seems to me that most of those people don't actually see them as irrational. What makes you believe in something that defies logic and explanation, if not faith?
GC: I think our existence itself defies logic and reason. I think our relationships with one another, the deep devotion I have to my son that science would tell me is just a strong cocktail of chemicals surging through my brain and coursing through my body, defies scientific logic. There's so much about how we humans behave, how we get attached to things, what our intuition tells, our potential to create and destroy, our existential longing and this nagging persistence that there must be a deeper meaning and significance to our lives that science cannot necessarily explain. I'm not sure I chalk it all up to some larger religious system of belief, but I can empathize -- every once in a while -- with those that do.
CR: What is your personal definition of spirituality?
GC: Spirituality is a state of awareness. I probably ripped that off from my dad. But it's pretty good definition.
CR: How do you understand the relationship between science and spirituality?
GC: I think modern science through technology is catching up with a lot of what many people have experienced through personal -- and spiritual -- insight. Let's take meditation as an example. In years and decades past, I think a lot of people dismissed meditation as some sort of quasi new age practice that had know objective benefit, even though regular practitioners swore by it and claimed all sorts of insights and benefits. Now, on account of so many studies, brain science, and other types of behavioral monitoring, we have absolute proof that regular practice of meditation is an effective tool of stress reduction, reversal of aging, and has many other measurable benefits. Just the tip of the iceberg...
CR: You've travelled quite a bit in your career as a journalist and videographer. Can you tell me about one of the craziest rituals/ceremonies/traditions you've been witness to during the course of those travels?
GC: That's an interesting question. India is obviously my ancestral homeland and culture, and I have traveled far and wide through it and experienced some wild stuff. A couple of years ago, my wife Candice and I traveled to a part of South India where we met the "Nadi Astrologers" and had our "readings" done. Based on your thumbprint, the readers recover a scroll printed across a palm leaf that supposedly corresponds with the facts of your life -- who your parents are, where you were born, who you will marry, etc. Both Candice and my scrolls were oddly accurate -- both facts from our lives, but also stuff that has happened since our visit. Crazy stuff.
CR: What do you make of that? Do you think there was something supernatural going on -- like these scrolls tapped into a wisdom or "design" for the universe science has yet to discover?
GC: I believe there is some grand design to the Universe. And I do think that there have been great minds throughout time -- call them scientists, sages, seers, or psychotics -- that have had unique insight into its deeper mechanics. There's a deep and majestic mythology to nadi astrology, around Lord Shiva and is peering into the matrix-like layers of time. It's worth a Google search. Do I believe that mythology literally? No. But do I believe that perhaps it's a costume for a greater truth that attempts to understand the nature of time, space, identity, and the accepted truth that energy never dies? I'd be way too arrogant to believe there have not been far wiser men and women than me that have gleaned great insights into the way these things work.
CR: What do you hope people will take away from watching Holy Facts?
GC: In one of the upcoming episodes of Holy Facts, we crunch the numbers around existence -- like how many galaxies there are in the Universe, how many planets in the galaxy, how many humans we have on the planet, how many cells make up a human body, etc. -- and the literal impossibility of it all coming together to produce this life -- yours and mine -- and this interaction. It's pretty staggering. Totally inexplicable. A singular miracle that cannot be explained through any science, for me anyway, is also beyond faith. Our existence is a curiosity, and that's the theme that defines the show. If you're curious, then I think you'll enjoy the show.
CR: Thanks, Gotham.
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