Deepak Chopra’s New Book: “Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment”

In searching around about Deepak Chopra’s controversial comments on CNN, I discovered that Chopra has published a new book, Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment.

This Time Magazine review, by David Van Biema, says, that in this book, “We meet Jesus consulting with a guru on an icy mountaintop in what seems like Tibet. He gets caught up with armed Jewish zealots, dallies with the Essenes (who collected the Dead Sea Scrolls) and eventually achieves a oneness with God. Chopra spoke with TIME about his novel.”

Here is a portion of Van Biema’s interview with Chopra:

Your version of Jesus’ “missing years” is heavy on his search for enlightenment, on both external and internal journeying. Is that an area in which you felt the Gospels needed supplementing?

When I was growing up, I went to an Irish-Christian missionary school. I was totally fascinated by the New Testament. I must have read it a few thousand times. One day I was reading the Gospel of John 10: 30, where Jesus says, “I and God are one.” The crowd immediately wants to stone him for blasphemy. But he quotes a psalm that says “You are Gods, sons of the most high,” which he tells them was addressed to “those to whom the word of God came.” He clearly sees himself as equivalent to that group.

I interpreted this as “those who have knowledge of God are God.” In Eastern philosophical systems there’s an established idea of a path through personal consciousness to a collective conscience to a universal conscience, which people call the divine. I concluded that Jesus must have experienced this consciousness, and that he must have followed a path. The story is about that evolution.

In fact, you write “making [Jesus] the one and only son of God leaves the rest of humankind stranded.”

Because we end up worshipping the messenger instead of the message and excluding all the theologies that existed before Jesus was born.

But it’s also the one thing that inspires Christ’s most fervent followers: that Jesus was God’s only son, who died for them and so took away sin. Isn’t your premise of an acquired godhood heretical to orthodox Christians?

It may be. Fundamentalist Christians always quote Jesus in the Gospel of John saying “I am the way. I am the life. Nobody comes into the kingdom of heaven except through me.” But what does Jesus mean by “I”?” In his language, Aramaic, the word is translated as “the I within the I.” So he may be speaking about himself as a universal spirit. In that case he can’t be squeezed into a body or the span of a lifetime.

But God’s crucifixion and resurrection as Jesus are all normative in Christianity.

All religions develop, become exclusive, become divisive and quarrelsome.

In your book there is a crucifixion, but only reported secondhand by Jesus as something like a dream.

The symbolic language of the crucifixion is the death of the old paradigm; resurrection is a leap into a whole new way of thinking. The language of the Sermon on the Mount — if someone hits you, turn the other cheek — he’s making a creative leap, and that’s the death of an old way of thinking and the birth of a completely new way. Every spiritual tradition has this idea of death and resurrection. It’s not unique to Christianity.

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