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ON DEEPAK CHOPRA'S SEVEN IMAGES OF GOD

The Omnipresence of God is a traditional teaching in most religions. The claim that God is always present everywhere often leads thoughtful young people to ask why they can’t see God. Taking that inquiry one step further, avowed atheists (who speak on ABC TV’s Q&A, for example) can insist they will only believe in God’s existence when they personally do see God.

Yet, no one can make God enter the world; for God is more real than we are.

Indeed, as pointed out by Deepak Chopra (How to Know God, 2000; p. 10), ‘the real question is whether God might be here already and going unnoticed.’

So, let’s consider this. Everyone today knows that we can only see a small proportion of all that exists. Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2006) rightly says that human senses have developed to detect only a narrow range of physical things. ‘Our brains have evolved to help our bodies find their way around the world on the scale at which those bodies operate’ (p.368).

Scientific instruments have revealed the existence of very small things like neutrinos and very large things like nebulae. Yet, as Dawkins points out (p.370): ‘no action that our wild ancestors ever had to perform, no decision that they ever had to take, would have been assisted by an understanding’ of such extreme magnitudes.

From that perspective, what we see and hear and touch are objects that have significance for our physical survival from day-to-day. ‘We live near the centre of a cavernous museum of magnitudes, viewing the world with sense organs and nervous systems that are equipped to perceive and understand only a small middle range of sizes, moving at a middle range of speeds’ (p.363).

Someone looking at the world through a larger lens than that of neo-Darwinist evolutionary biology, however, might note that "sense organs and nervous systems” don’t understand anything at all, for understanding is an intrinsically first-personal activity of the mind.

Just as a mirror doesn’t see anything but we can see things in a mirror, so too there is no understanding of any objects unless it is by some subject. And subjects, such as the human beings we are, inevitably find themselves facing questions of meaning, death and destiny that have no perceptible objects.

To deal with matters of thought that reach beyond the immediate continuance of our physical body, human beings in virtually all times and places have devised ideas of invisible spiritual reality and of an origin for everything in a Source, or Supreme Being, called "God”.

Whatever the ultimate divine reality is in itself, out of respect for the fact of our neurobiology, it’s hard to deny that human images of God must conform to what human senses, brain and mind can detect, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to conceive of God.

Deepak Chopra, who trained as a medical doctor, charts seven advancing stages in theology from the viewpoint of what he identifies as the brain’s seven basic responses to stimulus. If the reality of God is an invisible presence in, throughout and beyond the world, then any experience we have of God (and any image formed to explain that experience) must correlate with one of the brain’s seven possible responses to experience.

The correlation between images of God and the responses of the brain are as follows:

1. A God who protests us like a parent stems from the fight or flight response
2. A God who makes laws and rules over society stems from the reactive response
3. A God who brings peace stems from the restful awareness response
4. A God who encourages us to reach our full potential stems from the intuitive response
5. A God who inspires us to explore and discover stems from the creative response
6. A God who makes miracles stems from the visionary response
7. A God who brings us back into ultimate unity stems from the sacred response

Chopra’s suggestion is that our image of God becomes more sophisticated as we advance on our spiritual journey from infancy to enlightenment. God initially seems to be like a superhuman parent telling us what to do. After progressing through the various stages, however, we grow to realise that "God” is just a name for the Oneness of existence, life and mind – just a way of describing the energy or spirit or love that interconnects everything to everything else, including us.

Once we grasp that all human concepts of God are just different ways of understanding the source and substance of ourselves and all that exists, then clearly – because God is everything – God is always present everywhere!