After finishing a talk at a recent neurosciences conference in Columbus Ohio (April 29, 2017), Deepak Chopra appeared in a webcast entitled Does the soul have independent existence? Understand these 17 principles and know the answer for yourself.
This man evidently wants you the listener to learn, understand and build your orientation towards his notions of being and existence, by visiting and revisiting “17 principles” — “until you get all of them”. He appears to assume such ‘axioms’ in their current form are suitable for ‘definitive teaching’ in psychology, philosophy, various parts of medicine and other areas. I don’t think so!
My purpose is not to completely discredit Deepak who has earned a reputation in neurosciences and related venues, but to share real concerns about serious shortcomings that are present in his public oratory on the ‘architecture of being’. I feel duty bound to address the apparent misapprehensions and errors in these so called “principles” promoted in this video.
Of course, few matters, especially those in this complex realm can be dismissed in a thoroughly black and white way. It takes a lot of knowledge to even attempt such a platform. Some of his ideas provide insight and some manner of reference and relative validity. However, I did not find any of them to rise to the level of pedagogy he evidently presumes. There are serious limitations and problems here.
In spite of finding problems with Deepak’s presentation, in a sense I am glad that he was willing to go out on a limb to expose the full gamut of his ‘systemic thinking’. Sometimes when ideas can be dealt with in a straight forward way they are seen for what they are.
It is often by correcting error that improvements can be produced. So, perhaps such a work provides a framework for others in Ontology and relate disciplines to develop better epistemological frameworks suited to guide the basis of interdisciplinary collaboration. By doing so, an individual like Chopra opens the door to third parties such as myself to offer qualified criticism which I think a substantial number of readers will find valuable. My goal is to dissuade some from ever investing time and effort in the wrong venue and to help others who may be confused about such matters to think a bit clearer – to find more productive pathways of inquiry.
For starters, I believe it reasonable for anyone listening to this video and drawn to this field to make some distinctions — to name and frame the most pivotal points and attempt to determine the relative status of specific components of the presentation, acknowledging areas of limited merit and identifying others that are very problematic.
A more correct name for these 17 proposals might be ‘scaffolds’ that should either be ignored or be processed for responsible and competent revision. They reflect Deepak’s current disposition (state of consciousness) complete with certain penchants and uneven expertise in a variety of disciplines. One day he might have better insights and publicly critique them himself.
There are significant drawbacks and consequences attached to at least half of these so called principles. The epistemological and ontological problems should certainly should be well explained with the scrutiny of peers and colleagues rather than “followers”.
In his Prologue “On Being and Essence” (DE ENTE Et ESSENTIA) Thomas Aquinas stated the following:
“A small error at the outset can lead to great errors in the final conclusions, as the Philosopher says in I De Caelo et Mundo cap. 5 (271b8-13), and thus, since being and essence are the things first conceived of by the intellect, as Avicenna says in Metaphysicae I, cap. 6, in order to avoid errors arising from ignorance about these two things, we should resolve the difficulties surrounding them by explaining what the terms being and essence each signify and by showing how each may be found in various things and how each is related to the logical intentions of genus, species, and difference.”
What Aquinas wishes to convey is that the notions of being and essence require conceptual grounding on the nature of BOTH sense perception and rational reflection. At this juncture, it is worth asserting a counter premise worth considering: No systemic platform on being can be considered holistic without substantial integration with the classical notions of essence, potency and act (actuality).
On the other hand, the popularized notion of “consciousness” has many limitations especially if generated outside a trustworthy context. When someone repeatedly utilizes this concept as a philosophical fixture to tie together an authoritative systemic explanation of being while omitting key building blocks prescribed by one of the greatest expert to have ever lived, we ought to take notice and wonder about the dangers of hubris.
Possibly useful terminology in these 17 items includes the notion of “rudimentary emotions” which if defined well may be helpful IF developed in a frame that included adequate treatment of non rudimentary emotions. Also, the notion of “construct” if well defined and operationalized in reference to related representations is worthy of being weighed as part of Ontology nomenclature.
My biggest objection to Chopra’s 17 constructs arises from a fundamental disagreement with his apparent reincarnation assumption which to greater or lesser degree impairs the validity of his scaffolds, beginning at least as early as number 13 and serving the domino effect on the remaining items. It is from at least this point onward that the blocks move into entropy with major errors and gaps.
I will use the category ‘merit’ to quantify and qualify my impressions of validity of each representation’ within a balanced “interdisciplinary perspective”. A number scale of 1-100 will assign a number 1 to note “lowest validity” and 100 to qualify highest validity to each of the 17 scaffolds or “principles”.
An explanation of my reasoning may include acknowledgment of partial merit of some items while also explaining its drawbacks.
Below are the 17 principles identified verbatim from Deepak’s webcast.
Principle 1: “Consciousness is how we know any experience”. He explains that without consciousness there is no experience. Merit Rank 80.
In my way of thinking, consciousness is a set of variables that help organize a holistic assessment of experience, our reflection on it and our anticipation of how being is oriented towards future engagement in ‘the world’. It is based on much more than raw perception and rudimentary emotions.
We have an unconscious and subconscious which impact how we know experience. Further, we have degrees of sensation which affect our overall being which do not necessarily register into consciousness. Of course Chopra could probably explain these variables in a satisfactory way if questioned. Also, it may not particularly helpful to be overly exacting about narrow or broad definitions of consciousness at this stage of the overview which addresses a set of other variables that are truly wrongful.
Principle 2: “All experiences are modifications of core consciousness or pure awareness.” Merit Rank 60-95 depending on possible qualifications.
One does well to examine #13 and #14 scaffolds to understand how this Tabula Rasa premise is applied. Chopra does not build his paradigm in a way that focuses on the relation of essence to consciousness or adequately relates “modifications of core consciousness” or “pure awareness” to an indivisible and holistic notion of being. This scaffold, especially when burdened by the notion of “modifications of core consciousness” without making adequate distinctions about consciousness and its relationship to key concepts presents a framework subject to entropy rather than optimal integration.
Classical questions regarding innate a priori knowledge vs knowledge acquired by experience (a posteriori knowledge) apply. My forthcoming book, Being Becoming: Interdisciplinary Theory, examines the notion of “core essence” and our emerging awareness of it in relation to other essence(s) which could might help define various notions of consciousness including Chopra’s “core consciousness” in a more satisfactory way than what progresses from this scaffold in the entries to follow.
In the 21st century, though it may have some type of meaning and value in certain areas of psychology and spirituality, the idea of “pure awareness” comes up in a wide range of contexts which present major epistemological issues. Still, this issue alone should not disqualify its use, but might also hallmark the potential for abuse and misalignment.
While some prominent 18th and 19 century philosophers such as American Transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau or psychologist-philosopher William James may attempted to illustrate a similar frame or adjacent realities or used similar or antidotal expressions (i.e. Jame’s pure experience), they worked very hard to justify and develop the foundations within a well developed schema. They offered intellectual or poetic constructs, often reinforced with with substantial missive background, considerable research and public writing as well as pressure for clarification under scrutiny.
At a minimum, Chopra owes it to his reader to explain how 20th century phenomenology affects modern conceptualizations that generally differentiate ideas such as ‘pure awareness’ from normal experience and capacity for understanding objective reality. He might reply that is the point.
Nevertheless there are major burdens in our capacity to recognize and frame an experience like ‘pure apprehension’ that have been very much covered for over a century in the field of phenomenology. There is an entire nomenclature built around the assumption that there is no such thing as “pure awareness” because of the limitations of our perspective.
If Chopra was really motivated to pay the dues necessary to gain a handle on being and consciousness, he might examine Edith Stein’s Finite and Eternal Being and related commentaries. She was both a mystic and an intellectual who sought the bridge the gap between phenomenology and scholasticism. Consequently, she came to understood being and awareness from many perspectives, including those might be loosely grouped together as “pure awareness”
A concept such as “Gestalt Awareness” might be substituted for pure awareness, but probably not not. Such a paradigm but would probably imply common ground with pure awareness but would require most distinctions and recognize more ramifications than those constructs Chopra appears most comfortable acknowledging.
Principle 3: “Humans create constructs around raw experience and then assign a name to them.” Merit Rank 80-90.
Though we gain insight into being by the way human beings experience the outside world, we cannot rely on constructs created to name raw experience to define the nature of our being. Still, this is a pretty good point for establishing pathways of documented insight into being.
Perhaps Deepak would be willing to qualify what he means by “raw experience”. I believe he is on to something here as indicated in remarks in number two, but would suggest that in order to be holistic, we need other categories to frame and name besides “raw experiences” per se.
Reflections on experience and volition involved in decisions which affect awareness, states of being, development and relationships aside from raw experience and our attempt to supply generalized conceptualizations of it are included in a list of other major categories which must be considered when working synthesis such as this. Especially in the last two sections of my course Being and Systems one can learn about some pre and post and engaged (present moment) phenomenological constructs’ to categorize venues of orientation (observed and willed states of consciousness and orientation within different postures towards system(s) [in environment or world]. If you are reading this and plan to take the course and not a licensed mental health professional, simply insert “44” into registration form where license and license number are required.
Principle 4: “Constructs created science, technology, art, religion and civilization.” Merit Rank 70.
Perhaps better put, on one level we have used and continue to use “constructs” to “create” viable science, technology, art, religion and civilization. However, it seems a bit reductionist and primitive to assign the isolated term “constructs” to explain more advanced revelation in some categories, especially those pertaining to religion and revelations of Christianity.
Chopra would probably suggest that “pure awareness” is ‘being without constructs’ — something that his own religion or belief system is uniquely qualified to address. Though I believe he is wrong, he has a complex basis for attempting to establish ‘perishable being‘ as his unnamed, disposable appendage of a higher consciousness — a construct of “constructs”.
Going further, excessive reliance on the notion of static “constructs” rather than more, open, broader and dynamic frames of reference such as theories, models and paradigms suggests a highly questionable investment in preserving this frame to more easily partition off and jettison with as he develops the remaining scaffolds.
Do our notions about being reconstruct and expand when we substitute deeper, fuller and more complex references of awareness and experience for an overload of “constructs” assembled in response to “raw experience”? A deep sense of linguistic syntax, logic and semantics (though perhaps not absolutely definitive) seems to indicate that multiple constructs are compiled into theory but not so much that multiple theories fit into constructs. On face value we tend to view the expression of constructs as a unit that contains multiple concepts but not multiple theories.
What does it say about unified and integrated being if we instead declare that we routinely fortify our sense of being in the world with theories (containing multiple constructs) which in turn are assembled into paradigms (multiple theories) and that we further fortify our being with intuitive and formal beliefs as well as the products of faith, revelation and our response to it over time as a developing person. This collective disposition and state of being emerges out of many kinds of insights and revelations; enriched by modes of experience and reflections, including learning about and participating in religious and spiritual practices that draw us into greater union with God and his will for essential good in the world.
Of course a more expansive understanding of unified, integrated and indivisible being, makes it much more difficult to disarm the ‘constructed’ straw man to emerge more and more as the 17 constructs unravel. Ultimately it appears Deepak is quite careless with contemporary standards of epistemology and logic as he attempts to promote base ‘principles’ to describe being in ways which lend some level of plausibility and authority to “the steps” and positions that ensure “being” will fit into the portals prepared for them to fit in towards the end.
Principle 5: “The most fundamental constructs are mind, brain, body, world, cosmos.” Merit Rank 60-90.
There is some justification for saying this, except that “cosmos” for many relates to the interface of theoretical physics with highly personalized if not idiosyncratic conceptions of the universe which includes all sorts of aberrations such as space time portals, synchronicity, multiverses and the like. The cosmos is an ideal place for Deepak to “attend” and promote as an open ended manifold to contain the wildest penchants his followers may imagine in his latest book “You are The Universe”.
Though there is certainly a significant place for the various branches of physics to be weighed in our assessment of being, there is also an escapist cultural penchant that tends to double up on this modality, expand it in unwarranted ways and give inadequate space for other domains, including spirituality. The fact that we understand physics to have much interface with “metaphysics” or dimensions outside our familiar three dimensional cube does not equalize it with authentic spirituality which is much more a definitive feature of being and its development. Yes, there are conduits where various domains seem to interface such as the phenomenon of Masuro Emoto’s ice crystals, but it is worth mentioning that Emoto himself was not formally educated as a scientist, he certainly had an interdisciplinary orientation.
The remaining ‘constructs’ of mind, brain, body and world, are basically standard fixtures in the venue of Ontology, Philosophy of Human Nature, Philosophy of Mind, Phenomenology, and allied fields. However, one must be alert to the forthcoming slight of hand Deepak plays with the notion of mind, which for many is a fundamentally different substance (animate or ethereal and contained in the soul) than the brain (physical). For Deepak, the notion of mind seems to be a transitory pea placed under different cups at different times because though he may make gestures towards Cartesian distinctions of substance, consistent adherence does not play particularly well with the conception of being he attempts to promote in this presentation.
I believe the “constructs” of essence and potential in being as well as the dynamics of potency and act are critical fixtures in bridging the gap in discussions about mind-brain and soul-body dynamics. To miss this is to miss a lot and to basically disqualify a synthesis from producing principles that rise to the level of axiomatic status.
Principle 6: “When we experience sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we give it the name mind.” Merit Rank 40-85 depending on what qualifications Deepak might offer if questioned.
There are some scientists and philosophers who speak of lower mind (or brain in some schema) and higher mind (or brain for monists) with distinctly different capacities within the framework of being. I do not think Chopra finds these distinctions convenient for developing his current model because they may necessitate a broader, more abstract conception of the collective mind and its overall status in the domain of being. On the other hand, he could use such distinctions to refine his theory of being and include more of an intact mind to remain with being as it departs from the body.
At first blush, Deepak seems to believes in (or allows the reader to build into a mainstream conduit he can redirect) a Cartesian two substance paradigm which is mostly compatible with Christian Theology and Philosophy. Namely, the soul (and its consciousness) is an entirely separate substance than the body which it departs from at death. I certainly agree with this aspect of his thought if he can verify he really believes it. However, as mentioned, in later postulates he appears to approach mind as a “property dualist” rather than “substance dualist” (my book offers a more acceptable noun than “dualist”) which means he does not consistently recognize [brain/body] — [mind/soul] as separate substances. He appears to find affinity with an amorphous “being” that survives the body after death as a separate substance without form or even definitive cohesion that largely leaves mind (as most westerners understand it) behind.
Historically, from at least from the time of Plato and Aristotle, mind was the first frame of reference for a consciousness that survived the body after death. The notion of soul also existed and over time, it became clearer in the thoughts of many that the mind resided in the soul and that it was an inseparable component of it.
Principle 6 because expresses the construct of mind in an epiphenomenal way, namely the mind emerges from our awareness of and assessment of sensations and experience. It could be that Deepak intends this bottom up quasi monist perspective to offer a primordial definition of mind which also supports a contemporary two or three substance phenomenology but one that attempts to align brain and mind together as a substance or substances separable from “being” (though ‘pure awareness’ survives the body after death in some manner).
There is no question that most with a near death experience report a heightened awareness after death, so I do not wish to unduly disqualify the notion of “pure awareness”, only suggest than it is only one transitory dimension of being and certainly not being per se. In this life it is largely potential, perhaps a component of essence actualized in certain peak or transformative experiences. In the next life our current understanding of potential will be different because much of it will be actualized in a transformed state of being which we cannot fathom in great detail until we actually experience it in real life.
It does seem there is at least one other possible representation, existing or in potential for coinage for this assembly. Portions may be found in the nomenclature of Physiology combined with some bridge concept in Phenomenology, Ontology, Philosophy of Mind or Psychology. We may be due for a concept that bridges the gap between “pure awareness” and other states of consciousness that are relegated to normal experience.
Why might there be a need for this? Such a framework, provided it places “pure awareness” in a correct context, including the awareness of God vs the awareness of man, might open the door for many other distinctions as well.
It should be pointed out that many of Deepak’s mainstream contemporaries in this and similar venues believe in a strictly bottom up interpretation of the building blocks of consciousness. They are mostly either monists or property dualists. Unlike Deepak, they do not see either his understanding of being that survives the body after death or the soul as a substance that is clear and distinct, of a different nature than the body. In a sense he pays lip service to their physicalist, evidenced based demands for explaining consciousnesses in a way which property dualists will probably accept, at least on face value – basically equating consciousness with the mind and mind with the brain or nervous system in its entirety.
The issue, as earlier established, is that the mind itself is a spiritual substance with a priori features that limit the scope of the Tabula Rasa perspective. It does not emerge from experience though it’s actualized potential within its essence(s) surely does. Deepak may not argue with this. But if such is the case, then why offer such a representation as a “principle” rather than as an incomplete explanation, a scaffold geared to facilitate common ground between frameworks advocating one vs two substances (or possibly three substances).
Principle 7: “When we experience the brain, body, world and cosmos, we give it the name external perceptions.” Merit Rank 80 depending on some qualifications which only Deepak can provide.
How might Deepak explain and effectively distinguish “internal perceptions”? He appears to place external perceptions in a very broad schema here and presumably places internal perceptions in a very limited scope of being. Where does he place mind in this schema?
Neurologist David Eagleman suggests in Incognito and other books / interviews, that we are able to understand very little about what is happening within our brain and much of what it regulates in the body because most of its functions are “under the hood”, below the threshold of awareness though it may affect overall well being and consciousness. Perhaps this is why Deepak suggests that what little we experience of ‘the whole’ which includes the brain, our awareness is superficial or “external”. It could be that compared to the soul within the body (or some reduced concept of being), the body is “external”, but many contemporary thinkers see very indistinct divisions between “internal and” “external” (a construct Chopra has taken great liberty with here) in such ideas as “the heart”.
Modern psychology recognizes depersonalization and derealization as mental health problems that suppress normal development and impairment to resiliency, the recovery and growth of the self. Jumping ahead to the utterances in #13 and#14, it is “alleged” that Deepak is setting the stage for his listener to accept a depersonalized understanding of the ‘phenomenology of self’– moving away from a central integration of person to a fragmented portion of self relegated to the auspices of “core consciousness” or “pure awareness” divorced from other aspects of being.
Principle 8: “Names and descriptions are language constructs that nail down raw experience.” Merit Rank 85-90.
Okay. Best understood within the context of the other scaffolds.
Principle 9: “A baby’s raw experience is sensory; sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, along with pleasure and pain.” Merit Rank 80-90.
Especially in recent years, there has been much disagreement about the level of consciousness and quality of volition of infants. However, many prominent thinkers in Aristotelian and Platonic traditions including Scholastic philosophers through the middle 20th century operated with the philosophical premise of tabula rasa (blank slate) to explain infant consciousness in attempt to develop ideas within an a posteriori framework.
Sadly, this is one of the most disputed claims in Scholastic philosophy, something that contemporary thinkers in this vein (and others) often do not accept on face value or most often accept only as an incomplete theoretical vein, convenient for constructing certain points. Since Chopra qualified his position with the term “raw experience” we might be generous in our interpretation of his awareness of this issue and many others surrounding.
What is more difficult to understand are other distinctions he may have made outside this video which is what is examined in this article.
Principle 10: “The attraction or aversion of experience is rudimentary emotions.” Merit Rank 90.
In some circles this might be a very good place to start a discussion about philosophy of human nature as well as the relationship between emotion and experience. However, I suggest Deepak and those following this post read or reread Robert Solomon’s works such as The Passions, Emotions are Judgements or True to Our Feelings to address this potential principle on a deeper level with enough import for optimal systemic integration within a broader constellation of concepts in an authoritative synthesis.
Principle 11: “The interpretation of sense perceptions is thought.” Merit Rank 80. Much better to say that one aspect of thought is the interpretation of sense perception.
If Deepak disagrees with this recommendation for adjustment, then the Merit Rank goes down to 20.
Principle 12: “Without these human constructs, reality is just consciousness in various modes of itself, not yet labeled as sense perceptions, thoughts, emotions, etc.” Merit Rank 70-90.
Without adjustments to both scaffold 10 and 11, it appears we are on another path of thought entropy. However, the notion of “constructs” is perhaps a good way to describe ‘qualia of thought’. Without such a deep, unwarranted bow to the property dualists thought modalities, Deepak would do well to make some more distinctions here, including some attempt at reconciling a priori and a posteriori paradigms. Without explaining the scope of his interpretation about the magnitude of sense perception within “thought” generally, it is difficult to make a precise judgement about the merit of this suggested principle.
Principle 13: “The real reality is ‘being’ which is existence and awareness. (Merit Rank – first component ’80 plus’ depending on supplemental qualifications) “It is timeless, formless, without dimension.” (Merit Rank 20).
There is more to being than awareness, but Deepak arguably has this base covered with the concept of “existence”. Absent a discussion of the relationship between potential and essence in being, it is difficult to know what Deepak means by “existence”.
It appears that Deepak characterized the nature of being (which I understand as states of the soul within being which includes the body or its morphic form. The soul perhaps extends with some limits to some domain outside of the body in a way which appears to not fathom the full potential of prime matter which is generally understood as a component of being (or person) requiring a combination of prime matter (animate and inanimate) and form to warrant a classification of human being.
Key here is the fact that St. Thomas and virtually all scholastic thinkers have insisted that the identity of a human is tied to the soul manifesting within a unique and distinct carnation or physical identity, even if only for a few minutes before dying (i.e. the union of sperm and egg that begins to develop into a zygote is a fully constituted foundation to assign the identity of a unique human being). We are human and unique because of this foundation. After the body dies, the soul represents that unique soul-carnation eternally and exclusively. Without this prerequisite condition, we are not speaking of a human being but something nonhuman, imaginary or extraordinarily speculative (or heretical).
Even further, from the time of Aristotle onward, most thinkers in Greco-Judaeo-Christian traditions including almost all Scholastic and even Muslim thinkers understood the soul to be roughly the same shape as the body. This is not to exclude the notion of extension as expressed by ancient Roman thinker Plotinus and moderns such as Chalmers and Sheldrake. In sum, such people would say the body is in the soul but not visa versa. In this characterization, the soul has more expansive occupancy of space (as well as time) than the body. These ideas at their root still generally adhere in some manner to classical concepts of form.
Those such as Chopra who say the soul or being is “timeless, formless and without dimension” occupy a very problematic position that runs against many western and Christian concepts, constructs, theories and paradigms — as well as much contemporary evidence, including large catalogs of reports surrounding individualistic near death experiences of people who participated in a context that included a sense of form corresponding to a body albeit in another dimension.
The Merit Rank of 30 rather than 0 for the second component is offered in generous concession to the idea of mystery and the ethereal nature of near death experiences. In some vague sense, though the individuals in this process are not formless, timeless and without dimension, they may sense they are entering into a new dimension that seems to have a sense of infinity, timelessness and in some respects, flexible dimensionality. Of course they are persons WITH FORM in a situation that may have characteristics of formlessness, timelessness and perhaps some lack of “dimensionality”.
The merit rank of 30 for the second component is offered in concession in spite of the fact that the teachings of the top two world religions do not accept reincarnation.
In addition, according to recent Pew study, the category of “no religion” was the third largest category of religion in the world, after Christians and Muslims. According to the Huffington Post article, “The “unaffiliated” category covers all those who profess no religion, from atheists and agnostics to people with spiritual beliefs but no link to any established faith.” We must also take into account that probably the majority in the unaffiliated category represents people from eastern countries who may or may not believe in God but who have no alliance to any religion. As a group far fewer believe in reincarnation than those identifying as in Buddhist and Hindus.
To offer a universal principle in ontology or related discipline based on a religious belief of reincarnation into a different identity is problematic because if it is WRONG, which I believe it certainly is, the dangers to those who short change their their callings in life with the thought they can always start over in another incarnation on earth fundamentally diminishes the potential and value of their existence and possibly places them in danger of negative eternal consequences as taught by several major world religions participating in the realities of Judeo Christian revelation and the expectations of God and communities in heaven and on earth.
Instead, Chopra offers an end of life ‘eschatology’ that “human consciousness” or “being” can anticipate losing their form and being cast asunder within a cosmic soup which will somehow participate in the consciousness of another creation in some respect. Perhaps this will be part of the production of yet another person (or perhaps even an animal or bug). He leaves some doubt about the divisibility or indivisibility of the “existence” in question, both before and after the transition away from the body.
Of course, Christians believe in a “reincarnation” of sorts — those judged worth of eternal life enter into a “glorified” body that accentuates, not fragments being, complete with the actualized essence(s) of earthly being. With a magnanimous orientation, the enlightened Christian may offer an explanation for the sustained belief of reincarnation across a number of ‘major world cultures’. In brief, such a notion, broadly, is that “being reincarnates” represents a ‘primordial awareness’ of a reality that Christians and others believe.
There is extensive revelation that Christian’s possess — the reality that the elect soul inherits a unique and highly individualistic personalized glorified body in eternity. A distorted fragmentation of the belief that being (if accepted into heaven) at some point reincarnates into a glorified body of the same identity.
Shadows of this understanding can be found in religions that have produced a wide variety of interpretations for reincarnation that are far outside the Christian paradigm. The result is a mindset that reduces one’s humanity to some type of nebulous “consciousness” subject to all manner of change in identity and even permanent fragmentation.
Principle 14: “The rest, everything else; mind, body, brain, etc., is consciousness modified as forms and phenomena, bound in time and space.” Merit Rank 30.
Here we see a clear confirmation that Deepak leaves the notion of the human person as being with a long term, integrated immortal existence behind. It appears here that he confirms a destructive and false notion that our unique formation and identity are bound in time and space but that the “being” surrounding them is not and they will be ‘dismembered’ or ‘disempowered’. The separated being is not bound in time and space as the body, mind and brain as consciousness modified as forms and phenomena. I suppose he believes some type of “unmodified consciousness” is the portion of being that survives into some type of soup of consciousness utilized on some nebulous process of creation and reorganization.
If this scaffold #14 is interpreted logically as a proposition developed from number 13, Chopra evidently wishes to divorce “being” from “everything else” including mind, body, brain. However, in evaluating earlier “principles” I generously interpreted Chopra as accepting the mind as a spiritual substance as distinct from the physical substance of the body. However, on face value, it appears here he wishes to separate a spiritual species of being from mind in spite of accepting mind as a distinctly spiritual substance. Maybe there is something I am missing here, but it would require Deepak himself to either accept this interpretation or clarify some other position.
I am also confused about the most central feature — how Deepak views the relationship of “consciousness” to being. Maybe he is also confused. It does seem that “consciousness” as earlier established overlaps the entities as he later divides.
Also confusing is Chopra’s almost random introduction of the term “form”, especially in relation to “consciousness”. The notion of form is covered in Being Becoming Volume I: Interdisciplinary Theory.
One must ask explicitly, does Chopra see “consciousness modified” as separate or separable from ‘unmodified consciousness’ of being? Evidently he does, but he should answer this himself. If the answer is “yes”, what portion of being in this scenario is no longer bound by unified awareness (or developmental insights pertaining to a distinct identity) after death? He seems to suggest it is that portion of self that he deems confined to time and space as distinct from “pure awareness”.
Is Deepak’s notion of ‘eternal being’ or soul adequate –or akin to vague and reduced pre Aristotelian, Homeric understanding (do search “Homer” in Lorenz Hendrik’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy article) Ancient Theories of the Soul. “Homer never says that anyone does anything in virtue of, or with, their soul, nor does he attribute any activity to the soul of a living person. Thus, though the presence or absence of soul marks out a person’s life, it is not otherwise associated with that life.” Homer identified the existence of the soul but attributed very little too it. When a person died, the soul left the body and found itself in a very limited, grey state of existence. To begin anew, perhaps Deepak might wish to review how western culture progressed and see how its foundational understandings might be applied to his list of constructs:
Adopting a bird’s-eye view of the terrain that we will be covering, and setting many details aside for the moment, we can describe it as follows. From comparatively humble Homeric beginnings, the word ‘soul’ undergoes quite remarkable semantic expansion in sixth and fifth century usage. By the end of the fifth century — the time of Socrates’ death — soul is standard thought and spoken of, for instance, as the distinguishing mark of living things, as something that is the subject of emotional states and that is responsible for planning and practical thinking, and also as the bearer of such virtues as courage and justice. (Hendrick, October 23, 2003).
On the other hand, in Greece, the earliest philosophical essays took on materialistic tones, reflecting ‘pre-philosophic’ notions of Homer (8th century BC) and early Greek religion. “In Homer, while the distinction of soul and body is recognized, the soul is hardly conceived as possessing a substantial existence of its own. Severed from the body, it is a mere shadow, incapable of energetic life” (Maher and Bolland, 1912)
Principle 15: “Forms and phenomena rise and fall in an eternal now.” Merit Rank 15-40.
Quite confusing, yet may be tied to certain conduits cautiously discussed in philosophy and science. Thus far I had the impression Deepak believed that the soul existed though, when separated from the body became formless (or was it always formless in his schema – merely occupying the body without form?)
In the beginning of this video, Chopra insists that if one did not understand to go back and review in order to “get it”. Maybe he is saying that the constantly changing and emerging “eternal now” conveys and disintegrates forms in some cosmic process just as easily as phenomena fade away. However, even when considered from naturalistic perspective, as in Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, phenomena attached to material existence emerges and recedes with formative memory.
The “eternal now” is tied to a perpetual flow of forms and phenomena, which as David Bohm would indicate, manifest from implicative (potential) to explicative (actual) orders. It seems Deepak would be more consistent and be doing himself a favor if he explicitly recognized the status of form more explicitly in time and space as well as other dimensions associated with the afterlife of humans.
Substance is both physical and nonphysical as indicated in Cartesian dualism. Understanding the soul as existing with form would be a very important step here.
When Chopra’s “forms and phenomenon” “rise and fall”, what is mean by this? While it seems he means that “everything” (forms and phenomena) rise into existence and then passes out of it, Chopra, in keeping with Buddhism advocates for the eternal nature of “formless” “substance” associated with human beings that survives after death. However, he has a very ‘amorphous‘ understanding of what this is all about.
Principle 16: “Devoid of all constructs, we are eternal, timeless awareness recycling in space-time as the experience of form and phenomena.” Merit Rank 5.
It appears that Deepak believes that ultimately we are or become “timeless awareness” without distinct constructs of thought per se. As I indicated in commentary on Principle 7, depersonalization and derealization is a mental illness.
Now it may be that Chopra believes that it cannot be helped, that we might as well make adjustments and get used to it because this is “reality” and we need to adjust to it. He believes this enough to offer 17 principles pointing to these “endpoints”, in my view, a conscious accommodation of a sterile Buddhist philosophy, but vague enough for plausible deniability.
Principle 17: “Anything that can be named or described from particles to galaxies, DNA to the genome, from mind to brain, world to cosmos, is a human construct.” Merit Rank 50-70 depending on how certain variables on this repetitive theme are qualified. Chopra explains: “Constructs are derived from modes of knowing and experience in consciousness, which is modifications of awareness in awareness.” Merit Rank 50-70.
It appears that Deepak stays faithful to the notion of “pure awareness” here though it is not explicitly restated. It is difficult to know what he means by “modifications of awareness in awareness”. It may be reaching for another level of abstraction here, but the epistemological connections are very unclear.
If Deepak intends to confine the concept of “anything” to physical reality and “bottom up” phenomenon arising from it, then perhaps he may have a somewhat viable, yet still problematic and construct burdened by many limitations in representing the human experience. However, if he wishes to imply that the metaphysical or abstract dimensions of math and physics, and especially the metaphysical and spiritual dimensions of Theology and Philosophy are either not real or exclusively bottom up manifestations, not top down or not true modes of knowing and experience in consciousness, then we have a MAJOR PROBLEM.
If these realities are real and worthy of inclusion, then by their nature, they will have a very significant systemic role which Deepak evidently does not acknowledge in his cosmology of being. Overlooking pathways to critique Chopra’s poetic attempts at integration towards the end of this presentation — by expanding the notion of water, noting a variety of constructs / manifestations complied into “a watery nest” as the “essence of all experience” “as a never changing constant” (the language of science), I will withhold comment and move towards closure on a positive note.
In the later part of his presentation, Chopra announces that “everything is qualia except being”. He appears here to have stumbled into advancing a Thomistic or scholastic position — that the soul is animate, not material. Modern day adherents would add, not qualia not even quantum qualia (though it may interact with it on some level). He is attempting to address being which contains the soul.
There are a number of issues that arise when one does not distinguish soul from being and attempts to make claims about being without at least some address of the components which fill it. Yet, this still might be fertile ground to explore in some kind of process geared towards mutual understanding.
Most Christians focused on explaining ideas relating to Ontology, the philosophy of being, group body and soul with spirit in the context of being with the assumption that if judged worthy of eternal life with Christ we eventually gain a glorified body in the afterlife. Questions about this are addressed in forthcoming Being Becoming book series, the first of which is entitled: Being and Systems: Interdisciplinary Theory.
Though this is a complex matter to discuss, there appears to be a window for constructive dialog here. Maybe the best place to start is for Deepak to read this article again – until he gets it! Then perhaps he might offer answers to these questions – process which might result in adjustments, modifications or revisions. That would be a fruitful outcome.
Special thanks to my friend, Dr. Abdon Nanhay, MD (featured left) who sent me this Deepak Chopra video with the thought that I might comment on it. : ]