Monday, September 28, 2015

Books read in 2015: No. 22 -- How to Know God

by Deepak Chopra

Started: Sept. 15
Finished: Sept. 28

Notes: This was a book left behind by my father, no doubt part of his eternal search for truth, a search not unlike my own though his was more desperate and even disturbing. I admit I'm highly skeptical of these New Agey, feel good spiritual books and their gurus, but since I'll read about anything, I thought I'd give it a chance. Besides, one can learn from just about anything, and as a writer I'm always willing to search for story ideas while stretching my boundaries.

Mini review: Truth be told, the first half of this book seemed like a mess, even juvenile. It reminded me of those COEXIST bumper stickers, like a form of spirituality created by an under grad student with good intentions in which all beliefs are equal and true, including atheism. I'm not promoting one version of faith over another here, but I've always felt uneasy about these can't-we-all-just-get-along versions of religion and spirituality, if for no other reason than they seem more wish fulfillment than anything. Also, after reading the first half of this book, I found it quite disheartening the number of supposedly intelligent people who gave great blurbs at the beginning of the book. However, the second half of the book is somewhat better, and I found it of interest when it worked to reconcile faith and science and when it focused a little on how to work spirituality into one's daily life. Still, even here I was somewhat frustrated. My biggest frustration is that the author never, not once, offers any evidence or real arguments for any of the beliefs he is suggesting or even pressing. Admittedly there is not (or can not be) any empirical evidence for what might lie within spirituality, but there are philosophical arguments that can be made, and the author ignores all of them. He offers a few anecdotes, personal and historical, but otherwise, nothing. We are just supposed to believe what he tells us based upon ... what? Intuition? The author's popularity? The fact he wrote a book? Also, though this book starts off mixing all forms of religion, it eventually comes down to a version of Hinduism (the author's native religion, if I understood correctly) with a touch of quantum science. Maybe the author is correct, but it seemed a little convenient to me that the spiritual guidance he offers is at heart based upon the system of religion he had been exposed to the most. I'll admit I myself am approaching this from a Western and Judeo-Christian point of view, so I have my own biases, etc., but still. All in all I felt this was mostly feel-good popular spirituality at best, the kind of thing that gets promoted on all the daytime talk shows, but I did not find it overly deep or insightful. The likes of Kant, Kierkegaard, and Hegel would have had a field day with this simplistic material, probably with a few laughs thrown in.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've been reading quite a few faith based books these last few years, mainly for the project I'm working on about science and faith. There's a lot of stuff out there I haven't been enamored of, particularly some of the ones that have tried to mix science in with their religion.

Ty said...

I'm right there with you. I've actually found better mixtures of science with religion in Medieval Judaic manuscripts (such as by Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi) than I have from most modern writers.

Clark said...

Your review exposes one of the problems with Chopra's brand of spirituality. It is spirituality for spirituality's sake. Ultimately, it is all about experiencing spirituality rather than truth (which would then inspire a form of spirituality). Once you've established a feel-good, all faiths are equal kind of spirituality, you sacrifice all claims to truth and the entire process becomes rather pointless and unsatisfying. But the world we live in today seems to value the experience over the truth, which explains Chopra's popularity I suppose.