Posts Categorized: Articles

Unveiling Reality: The Mystery of “Who Am I?”

By Deepak Chopra, MD

At a public lecture, a psychology professor was reported to say, “Until you are fifty, you won’t know who you are.” This seems overly optimistic, because much more than maturity is involved in discovering who we are; in fact, much more than psychology is involved. To answer, “Who am I?” requires us to take a stand about reality itself, in every possible aspect.

 

 

 

In high school and college English classes it’s popular to assign an essay on the theme of appearance versus reality, which can be applied to any piece of literature. As applied to Hamlet, for example, almost the whole play is about figuring out what is real and what is illusory. Is the ghost of Hamlet’s father real, and if so, is he telling the truth about his murder?  The new king, Claudius, who has married Hamlet’s mother, appears friendly and caring about his stepson’s welfare at the beginning, but this sham is uncovered as guilt and revenge take their course. There are more tangles of appearance versus reality around every corner, such as the critical question of whether Hamlet is mad or sane.

 

In everyday life, we keep up appearances through an elaborate complex of veils, disguises, unconscious defenses, and psychological ruses. Most of these involve the word “self.” Burying our true self is a project we spend huge amounts of time and effort on. In early childhood, for example, your parents nurtured and protected you. But at a certain point rifts appeared. Every child learns that their father and mother are not all-powerful. They can’t protect you from bullies on the school bus. Another rift is centered on desire. Children want things their parents don’t necessarily want, and when desires clash, then what? It comes as a traumatic shock when a couple decides to divorce, because no matter how it is papered over, they are acting to make themselves happier first—or to escape misery—rather than doing what makes their children happier or less miserable. (Of course there are examples where divorce is better for the whole family, but disruption and trauma are still an issue.)

 

At such critical points, and there are many more both large and small, each of us is thrown back on the self, which becomes our first and last refuge. We learn—or fail to learn—to be self-reliant, self-protective, self-confident, self-motivated, and self-aware. This project of relating to yourself is how you answer the question “Who am I?” You are the end product of building a self and presenting it to the world. No one looks in the mirror and sees a real person. What is seen is the self, and it isn’t a simple image, either, but a dynamic system of relationships inside our minds.

 

This constructed self has a very limited reality, because no matter how hard we work at self-improvement, there’s a fatal flaw built into the self system. The construct is essentially artificial, and therefore it is separate from us. No one completely merges with the social self they present in public. No one fully accepts the psychological self they must live with beneath the surface.

 

The proof of this is quite simple. People say things like “I hate myself right now” or “You need to learn to love yourself.” It’s like talking about someone else, a stranger or a sibling or even a pet. Like them, our self-creation stands apart. We look at it, judge it, hate it one day and love it the next, and so on. In short, the reality of who we are is veiled from us, and we don’t know what lies behind the curtain. For most people, facing reality is a scary proposition; they vastly prefer to be buffered by the ego-self they have learned to accept. Going back to the childhood example, when you learned that your parents were not all-powerful protectors, it was impossible to remain neutral to this shocking fact. You were forced to confront the whole issue of how to stand on your own and protect yourself.

 

Yet despite all the forces that urge us psychologically to remain inside our constructed ego-self, the world’s wisdom traditions, in which I include all religions and spirituality, revolve around the possibility of getting real. Something inside us, even if deeply buried, feels trapped in the ego-self. Unfortunately for the forces of conformity and conventionality, there has always been a motley crew of artists, sages, saints, madmen, rebels, poets, and lovers who have released themselves from what William Blake called our “mind-forged manacles.” These escapees are at once scary and inspiring. We venerate and persecute them in equal measure. A figure like Jesus, for example, personifies ultimate inspiration and ultimate suffering at the same time.

 

But let’s say that fear doesn’t win out and you undertake to unveil reality. Immediately an obstacle arises. To get at who you really are, you have to go through the self you created so assiduously over the years, and unlike a pair of rose-colored glasses, which you can simply take off, you can’t remove the filters imposed by the ego-self. You have come to believe those filters are you. The self system clouds everything you perceive or think about.

 

The only way to unveil reality is to find a strategy that doesn’t implicate the self, which means that you must exclude everything the mind does all the time, which is to entertain a constant stream of sensations, images, feelings and thoughts. The mind has been trained to conform to the jerry-built self, and so has the brain. In our efforts to shape reality to suit our wishes, desires, fears, and needs, the mind has become hopelessly divided, with certain impulses being under control (more or less), while other impulses roam free, refusing to submit to us (ask anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsions, paranoia, grief, helplessness, and so on).

 

Being yourself means getting rid of your separate self first. It sounds almost laughable. The situation is exactly like saying that if you want to be totally protected, you must drop all your defenses. The whole project seems counterintuitive and more than a little suspicious. The ancient Greek dictum of “Know thyself” could be a folly or simply impossible. But there’s no getting around the fact that reality, to be real, must be unfiltered. Only by walking the path of self-liberation is it possible to discover, once and for all, what is real and what is illusion. This path follows definite principles, however, that provide a guide to anyone who wants to get real. These principles will be discussed in the next post.

(To be cont.)

Originally Published by  The San Francisco Chronicle

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

 

MORE

The Faith-Based Science of Neil deGrasse Tyson—It Needs Correcting

 

By Deepak Chopra, MD

Peacekeepers entering war zones frequently find that both sides are angry and intransigent, to the point that even mentioning peace causes tempers to flare. This has been the situation with the debate—now worn out to the point of exhaustion—between science and religion. There are ways to bring peace, but they are stymied by militant partisans.

 

The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson broke out from his warm persona as our national science explainer in 2014 when he stated, in line with previous opinions, that philosophy was useless, telling an interviewer, “My concern here is that the philosophers believe they are actually asking deep questions about nature. And to the scientist it’s, what are you doing? Why are you concerning yourself with the meaning of meaning?”

 

The reason that more people got upset over his remarks goes beyond the small and dwindling coterie of professional philosophers. DeGrasse Tyson was arguing in broad terms that science is the only avenue to truth and that inner inquiry was an obstruction to uncovering the secrets of reality. He believes, science requires no acts of faith and therefore is the only reliable guide to knowledge.

 

Millions of people would agree—after all, modern civilization was built upon the foundation of science and technology. But deGrasse Tyson doesn’t realize that his brand of simplistic materialism runs exactly counter to the insights of quantum physics beginning a century ago, when the reliable structure of space, time, matter, and energy was completely undermined. This is no longer the stale, exhausted war between science and religion or between science and philosophy. The nature of reality, unknown to so-called naïve realists, has become increasingly mysterious.

 

DeGrasse Tyson places himself in the camp of naïve realism, the belief that what the senses report is fact, that raw data, once systematized and explained, establishes the physical universe as the basis of everything real. That is actually an act of faith. The great pioneering physicist Max Planck, who coined the term “quantum,” insisted that “mind is the matrix of matter.” He elaborated on the point speaking to a London reporter in 1931: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

 

The fact that the observer affects what he observes, links mind and matter, although precisely how is still debated. DeGrasse Tyson recently dragged my name into his combative attitude, labeling me as a suspicious character who threw around big words to disguise my own ignorance. But having written several books on the nature of consciousness, I feel like a peacekeeper rather than a combatant.  One role DeGrasse Tyson has adopted is a kind of “There’s nothing to see here, folks. Just move on.” He represents the happy face of a unified scientific community marching hand-in-hand toward the ultimate explanation of everything.

 

The problem with such an attitude is its combination of willful ignorance and outdated science. The salient points are these:

  1. Physicists find themselves more baffled than ever about the nature of the universe, thanks to the discovery of dark matter and energy, which contradicts many previously held assumptions.
  2. The holy grail of science, the sought-after Theory of everything, is farther than ever from being achieved. This has led to a deep rift and much doubt among theorists—see Stephen Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow. In explaining their M-Theory, they use the phrase “model-based reality.”
  3. The traditional way for dealing with consciousness has been for science to ignore it, be suspicious of the entire subjective realm, and ridicule anyone who brought up the subject. This attitude, encapsulated in the phrase, “Shut up and calculate,” is a mask for ignorance about the nature of the mind. Like it or not, science is a mode of explanation that rests upon experience, just as other modes of explanation do.
  4. Without understanding consciousness, science as pure physicalism may be reaching a dead end. Once you arrive at the quantum vacuum state, the void from which time, space, matter, and energy emerged, there is no more data to harvest. Across an uncrossable horizon lies the “nothing that gave rise to everything.” A new mode of explanation based on consciousness offers a way past this barrier. But about this deGrasse Tyson knows nothing.
  5. Pride in being a know-nothing is gradually fading among far-seeing scientists. In an influential Scientific American article in 2014, the prominent British physicist George Ellis knocked the scientific attack on philosophy. Ellis’s central point was that the assumptions behind science are metaphysical to begin with, yet practitioners of science remain woefully ignorant of this fact. Both opposing camps, the one that derives creation from material forces and the one that derives creation from an invisible transcendent agent of mind, are making philosophical statements, not proven statements of fact.

 

Taken altogether, these points, which are well known in and out of science, are not quackery or suspicious anti-science attitudes promulgated by exponents of woo woo.  I can shrug off unfair denigration, but deGrasse Tyson needs to get past his faith-based view of science. Instead of disparaging better thinkers than himself, he should join the peacekeeping mission that might, at long last, repair a division that needs healing, not misplaced antagonisms.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

 

MORE

Artificial Intelligence Is Already Here—It’s Us

Deepak Chopra, MD


As news keeps pouring out about the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI), people don’t know how much to welcome the technology or fear it. There are warnings from top-level scientists about a future in which super computers become so advanced that they leap into autonomy. Freed to make their own decisions, AI could lead to machines that create catastrophes like starting a war. On a more mundane level, robotics has steadily replaced humans in many jobs. Some experts declare that few jobs performed by a human being could not eventually be duplicated with a machine more cheaply and efficiently.

 

Yet in the midst of this worrisome situation, which also holds vast promise, the irony is that the direst perils of AI are already here, in the form of our own human intelligence. We feel intuitively that we have natural intelligence, not the artificial kind. After all, nobody built us from mechanical parts; we lead emotional lives; we are capable of insight and self-reflection. Despite these things, however, the human mind is deeply artificial in many ways, and the negative connotations of the word “artificial”—fake, lifeless, illusory, mechanical, arbitrary—apply to everyday life.

 

At one level, when we fall into self-defeating habits that we can’t break out of, we are exhibiting robotic behavior. When we give in to primitive responses like aggression, fear, and hostility, we relate to our lower brains like biological robots. And when we create totally arbitrary value systems like competing religions and political ideologies, we follow pre-programmed mental software without thinking for ourselves. The ability of human intelligence to create new constructs is a two-edged sword. For every advance in science and technology, there are the destructive results of war, environmental depredation, and other attacks on nature, including from within. Nothing is more deeply troubling than human nature, which can run out of control more fatally than any robot or super computer.

 

These examples illustrate the artificiality of human intelligence, because there is nothing natural about them; all are mind-created. This raises the question of why we permit ourselves to lead pre-programmed, robotic lives according to second-hand opinions, outworn beliefs, fixed conditioning, and mechanical responses. AI in the field of technology is simply about how to build a better logic machine; AI in the human sense is about discovering what “natural intelligence” might be.  In a world imperiled by every form of human folly, discord, and self-created woe, no issue is more urgent.

 

As complex as the situation is—and I’ve only offered the barest sketch of it—the answer isn’t complex. We need to know ourselves in a new way. If you try for a fresh start by throwing out all the artificial, arbitrary constructs that burden us, what’s left is the most basic aspect of life: experience. Strange as it sounds, none of us really understands how experience works, because we are too entangled in it to find the right viewpoint, a viewpoint uncolored by the restless mind.

 

Here are a few bare facts about experience. First, it is evanescent; experiences rise and fall, appearing and disappearing. Second, we have no idea how or why this occurs. The next thought is totally unpredictable (except when it’s robotic) and therefore out of our control. Third, to keep life from disintegrating into total discontinuity, we set up a simulation of reality that enables us to survive and thrive. This simulation, as the brain evolved over millions of years, we call the human world, which is based on the five senses, everyday perceptions, interpretation of perceptions, and the stories based on interpretations that everyone agrees upon.

 

Agreed upon or not, our simulation of reality is totally arbitrary, and at bottom is a gigantic feedback loop. We believe what we see; we see what we believe. (So powerful is this feedback loop that it generates the appearance of time, space, matter, and energy—but that’s a longer, more complex story to unravel.)

 

To escape the feedback loop would be the fresh start that is the goal of the world’s wisdom traditions. You can’t escape by using mental activity, any more than a hamster can get to a new place by running faster in its wheel. As surely as computer will never employ AI to become human, we cannot use our mental programming to free ourselves from mental programming. The whole project is self-contradictory. If the simulation of reality has trapped us, where does reality begin? Logically, it must begin in something that’s constant in the face of evanescence, permanent in the face of change, and unaffected by the mind and its crippling ability to trap itself.

 

The constant we need to find is actually right under our noses. As experience appears and disappears, one thing remains untouched and unchanged: awareness itself. You can’t predict or control your next thought, but one thing is certain. You will be aware of it. A thought is a spark of awareness taking shape before it vanishes. The same is true of bigger mental events, too, like memory, theories, models, philosophies, religions, technologies, and history. We try to anchor ourselves to these bigger events, but inevitably they shift, rise and fall, and give way to something equally insecure.

 

By trying to anchor life on what is impermanent, we ignore the other alternative, anchoring life on what is permanent. If we had made that choice instead, there would be no fear, insecurity, conflict, and confusion. Resting on the foundation of consciousness means not buying into impermanence, and impermanence is by definition the source of all illusions, because every illusion is the child of the one great illusion that life is impermanent, threatened by the specter of death. In reality, life is consciousness itself, and therefore it isn’t the opposite of death.

 

Dying is the aspect of evanescence we fear the most (here today, gone tomorrow). Yet every night when we go to sleep, experience vanishes while awareness remains. What we call waking up is just the return of mental activity in terms of sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts. During sleep, however, the brain and central nervous system are constantly active; every cell is surviving and thriving; nothing is unconscious in the slightest. It is only the rise and fall of experience that ceases when we fall asleep, not the underlying consciousness that makes experience possible.

 

Here one can see the most artificial thing about human intelligence: our false belief that we are our thoughts. If that were true, impermanence would be the only reality. Fortunately, beliefs can be unmade as well as made. There has never been total allegiance to the belief that we are our thoughts. The entire tradition of spirit, soul, God, and enlightenment is a form of dissent against the domination of the mind and the futile attempt to perfect a mind-created reality. Even if our minds could make us perfectly happy, returning to the Eden of innocent childhood, we would still be in the grip of illusion. The only way to be a free human being is to identify with consciousness; that’s the only fresh start available to us.  Beyond all impermanence is awareness, the ground state of existence and the hope of a completely natural life.


Deepak Chopra MD, FACP
, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

MORE

How Reality Is Made: The Play of Consciousness

By Deepak Chopra, MD

It’s a peculiar part of being human that we have both a mind and consciousness but cannot tell them apart. The difference is that the mind is constantly in motion, producing sensations, thoughts, images, and feelings, while consciousness is the basic “stuff” of the mind, which remains unchanged no matter how active the mind is. By analogy, paintings are produced by endlessly combining colors in new ways, while “color” itself is unaffected. A painting can neither create nor destroy color.

 

This inability to know the difference between mind and consciousness has created a trap that we all fall into. We create something from the “stuff” of consciousness and then forget that we created it. The trap becomes obvious with something like a dictatorship, when an ordinary human being becomes a figure of total belief and worship. From outside the ideology, you can see the deception—the very people who feel powerless before the dictator in fact created him and then felt powerless before him. But similar deceptions in everyday life escape our notice, and in that way, we trap ourselves.

 

Mind-created structures are everywhere, and when they become destructive, as in crime, war, us-versus-them thinking, religious conflict, and the technology that creates mechanized means of death, we struggle, often futilely, to correct them. The futility comes from not knowing how mind-created structures are made, and since the human world is entirely mind-created, the problem comes down to not knowing how our reality is made.

 

Babies are born without mental structures, although this can’t be a blanket statement, since the potential for complex mental activity is present already in a newborn. But even so, a baby looks at a shoe, a teacup, the walls of its room, and its own hand without naming or knowing what they are. Raw perception is a helpless state until the magic ingredient is added: interpretation. Through brain development and mental development, which go hand in hand, a baby enters the training of perception. Objects get named; their uses are understood; eventually they are mastered. Thus a floating pink blob turns into the baby’s hand, which it names, understands, and learns to use.

 

Once perception and interpretation are joined, the next stage is to construct a story out of them. Here is where we acquired the enormous freedom to build a self, to give meaning to our lives and participate in the wide world. To take a single example, a piano makes sounds that are meaningless to a baby; then this perception is named as music. Now the perception of sound, interpreted as music, leads to the story of Mozart and the Beatles, with the freedom to either become a musician, enjoy music, ignore music, or have such a tin ear that music is meaningless. Every story can be untangled in the same way to get back to the basics of perception and interpretation.

 

But life tends to move in the opposite direction. We become more and more entangled in our stories, and in this tangle, we forget how stories are made and unmade. Someone who always votes with a leftist party and cannot abide the views of the rightist party—and vice versa—has become entangled in a construct (politics) that can become all-consuming. If you have zero interest in politics, that entanglement hasn’t snared you, but for certain some other story has. The trick is to stand outside all stories, which is the point of tracing them back to perception and interpretation.

 

If we become aware of how we’ve created our own stories (with the help of family and society), we can get out of messy entanglements. Going a step further, it’s possible to see where all mental activity comes from, something even more basic than perception. In the Indian tradition, the source of all mental activity is the play of consciousness. This play isn’t mental. Instead, being malleable, consciousness shapes itself at a much more basic level than sensations, images, feelings and thoughts.

 

Looking around, we observe the malleability of consciousness in animals that possess a totally different species of consciousness than humans. The entire machinery of perception that pertains to cats, dogs, dolphins, tarantulas, and flatworms is alien to us, and yet there is no doubt that living things are in some way conscious. Dogs, cats, dolphins, etc. live complicated lives filled with desires, impulses, family bonds, methods of communication, and so on. Humans feel pride of place because our mental activity is incredibly advanced compared with so-called lower life forms.

 

The irony is that these creatures aren’t trapped in stories of their own creation, whereas we are. A cat consigned to the deep ocean will not fare as well as a dolphin, who in turn will not do well on dry land. Their species of consciousness is limited and bound by nature and evolution. Human beings have some of these limitations, but no single story bounds us into a way of life we cannot consciously change. The real issue is whether we can transcend our species of consciousness, which would mean rising to a level where the “stuff” of mind is altered.

 

According to the world’s wisdom traditions, such a leap is possible; in fact, showing people how to transcend is the sole purpose of any wisdom tradition. Instead of offering new thoughts or even new stories, they offer a new state of consciousness, which can be called enlightened, liberated, or awake. The terms are all suggestive rather than definitive. The essence of transcendence is to join the play of consciousness. In practical terms, this requires a shift of identity. Instead of identifying with all the busy-ness of the mind, you identify with the mind’s quiet, peaceful, unchanging source.

 

Testimony from centuries of transcendence tells us that identifying with consciousness itself gives human beings a fresh start. We drop our stories and stop being entangled in them. We throw off the insecurity and unending demands of the ego. We see through the illusion that human nature is intrinsically evil or good. In other words, we throw off what the poet William Blake called “mind-forged manacles.” In pure transcendence there is nothing left to do but to enjoy being here now. But a fresh start also implies new horizons—what would they be?

 

In a way this is an unanswerable question, like asking “What is a mind good for?” There is nothing to say about mind until you experience it. The same is true of transcendence. Until you join the play of consciousness, you can’t say in advance what will happen. Right now, the great task is simply to show people that they don’t have to remain trapped in mental constructs and stories, no easy thing.

 

But one by one, people do find their way, as they have for centuries, to the same fresh start, the same awakening. Life becomes much more personal and intimate once this moment arrives, but in general, the play of consciousness is about taking the basic qualities of human awareness—love, intelligence, creativity, empathy, insight, and evolution—and discovering what can be created from them. This isn’t a total revolution. The mind, being the creation of the play of consciousness, already participates in love, creativity, intelligence, and the rest. But it is revolutionary to realize that you have direct access and creative power over these qualities of life. Perhaps more importantly, you rest in the security of knowing that life can take care of itself without interference.

 

The play of consciousness is how reality is made, both personally and for the entire human race. It has given us this human world and the human universe in which it is embedded.  We believe that gluons, quarks, galaxies, stars, force fields even bodies and minds are ” real” but they are human constructs for modes of perception and their interpretation in consciousness. In the deeper reality there is only the play of consciousness. The next step in our evolution as a species is to become conscious creators of this reality, which can be called the evolutionary leap from human to meta-human.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

 

MORE

An Educated Society Can No Longer Hide from Consciousness

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Anoop Kumar, MD

Because science is the primary way we view reality, it has shaped the minds of students from grade school through graduate studies and beyond. But behind the scenes, experts are telling a new story–and in fact have been doing so for at least a century. In the July 2005 issue of Nature magazine, Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, wrote:

 

“…The 1925 discovery of quantum mechanics solved the problem of the Universe’s nature. Bright physicists were again led to believe the unbelievable — this time, that the Universe is mental.” This startling realization has not yet impacted our education system, and yet decades before Prof. Henry’s comment, the eminent British physicist Sir James Jeans wrote that “the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter… we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter…”

 

These radical insights ran counter to the default worldview of science, which founds reality on objectivity (facts, data, experiments, mathematical formulations) and holds a deep suspicion of subjectivity. The irony of such a position is that consciousness, the “stuff” of all mental activity, is also the stuff of the mental activity we label as science.

 

The resistance to a mental universe remains strong, and once again dates back decades, as when another eminent physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington, noted, “It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character…” What scientists cannot accept eventually trickles down into what teachers don’t teach.  Since we were children, our teachers have taught us that the world is made of little things called particles or atoms. They were only partially right. In fact, particles and atoms are mental concepts and images, a way of objectifying experiences of the mind.

 

The vast majority of scientists and other so-called thought leaders have not diligently explored the possibility that “matter” is actually an experience we are having in consciousness, not unlike the objects that populate dreams, which are mind-made. Ignoring the role of consciousness as a shaping force when we are awake and not dreaming isn’t simply incomplete but irresponsible. Leaving aside arguments at the level of quantum physics, students progress through the entire educational system with no instruction about the basics of mind, emotions, everyday psychology, mental disorders, insight, intuition, and the source of creativity. All of this, the whole world “in here” that science has traditionally rejected, is left for us to cobble together without guidance. The result is that millions of people are so alienated from their subjective experiences that conditions like depression, anxiety, insomnia, self-doubt, obsessive compulsions, addictions, and psychological dependency gain enormous power over us as we wander in the dark.

 

The charge of being irresponsible isn’t made lightly. You don’t have to know the science to appreciate the plausibility that consciousness is the basis of reality. Consider the following:

Nobody has ever known anything independent of consciousness. In other words, the entire history of human knowledge occurs in consciousness, without exception. What we categorize separately as religion, history, science, and technology are experienced in consciousness. Quantum theory has long asserted that space and time have no independent existence but occur purely in mathematical space, taking their reality from human mental constructs.

 

Why do these things seem so dubious, impossible, or threatening? Because having created these constructs, we have forgotten our role in creating them and believe that they are real. There are many ways to undercut this default acceptance of the world “out there” as being the source of reality. One important clue is that there is no explanation for how the brain produces the four-dimensional artifact of everyday sights, sounds, tastes, textures, smells, and the passage of time. There isn’t even convincing evidence that the brain is the source of mind. It is just as plausible that mind is the source of the brain, or that both are modifications of consciousness and therefore do not create each other.

 

Yet none of this is revealed to students, or only rarely, as they pass through the educational system. As an educated society, we profess to be interested in what is true. The reason we support science and conduct experiments is to find the truth, and then to live better lives. But if we really want truth, we must go where the evidence leads us. Now that open-minded science is overturning old prejudices, all roads lead to consciousness.

 

If in fact consciousness is primary, then our very nature must be redefined. Consider what it would feel like if your real nature were infinite and eternal, and yet you were forced to believe and live as though you were stuffed into a coffin-like box less than two meters tall that exists for a brief time between birth and death. It would feel like pain, worry, sadness, depression, anger, resentment, and confusion—the very situation that has resulted from defining human beings as confined inside a body and believing that the birth and death of the body creates and annihilates the person.

 

The question is not whether we like what the evidence suggests, or even whether changing course is easy. There is no doubt that a radical re-examination of reality and Nature itself will challenge minds, careers, and institutions. But the alternative is blinkered, ill-informed, and bad science. Our children deserve to be told the whole story, for their wellbeing and ours.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

 

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership from McGill University. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Anoop enjoys exploring and communicating about the intersection of self-awareness, science, and wellbeing. Visit him at anoopkumar.com and follow along @DrAnoopKumar.

MORE