By Deepak Chopra
228 pages; HarperOne
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Like a car with two steering wheels, the world has been guided by two forces, the spiritual and the secular, that fight for control. The secular has seized the advantage today, but for many centuries the power lay with spirituality. Visionaries could shape the future as much as kings, often more. A king was anointed by God, but visionaries were visited by God. They heard his message personally before appearing in public to announce what God wanted people to do.
I became fascinated by the perplexing situation that visionaries find themselves thrust into. Very few asked for this power to affect other people. God wrenched them from the comfort of everyday life and guided their steps. The voice they heard in their heads wasn’t their own, but divinely inspired. What was that like? On one hand, it must have been terrifying. In a world that made a spectacle of feeding martyrs to lions, crucifying saints as enemies of the state, and jealously guarding old religions, the voice of God could be pronouncing a death sentence. On the other hand, to experience the divine was ecstatic, as witnessed by the mystical poets in every culture who had a love affair with the divine. That mixture of rapture and torment became the seed of this book.
"God" is an empty term except as it finds expression through the revelations of all the saints, prophets, and mystics of history. They exist to plant the seeds of spirituality as direct experience rather than a matter of hope and faith. Yet no one can say that God was revealed in one consistent shape delivering one consistent message—quite the opposite. Somehow revelations can be divine and contradictory at the same time.
God: A Story of Revelation. Copyright © 2012 by Deepak Chopra. Excerpted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Why doesn't God just say what's on his (or her) mind and let it spread to every people? The contradiction in holy messages arose because of our own limitations. Let's assume that God is infinite. Our minds are not equipped to perceive the infinite. We perceive what we are prepared to see and know. Infinity reveals itself in bits and pieces tailored to each society, epoch, and habit of mind. We label as God mere glimpses of higher reality, like seeing one figure in Da Vinci’s Last Supper. A glimpse fills us with wonder, but the whole thing has been missed.
With that in mind, I've turned this novel into a meditation about God in us. Only half is fictional, devoted to ten visionaries entranced by the words that God spoke to them. The other half consists of reflections on what God meant when he singled out these sages, seers, prophets, and poets. The message wasn’t the same each time—Job in the Old Testament heard something very different from what St. Paul in the New Testament heard—yet one sees a pattern.
God evolves. That's why he keeps speaking and never grows silent. The very basic fact that God has shifted between "he," "she," "it," and none of the above shows how changeable the divine presence is. But to say that God evolves implies that he began in an immature state and then grew into fullness, when every faith holds that God is infinite to begin with. What actually evolved was human understanding. For thousands of years, perhaps as far back as cave dwellers, the human mind held a capacity for higher reality. Sacred paintings and statues are as ancient as civilization, preceding written language and probably even agriculture.
Nearness to God is a constant, not just in human history, but in human nature. If we are connected to our souls, the connection is permanent, even if our attention falters. We think that God changes, because our own perception waxes and wanes. The messages keep coming, though, and God keeps showing different faces. Sometimes the whole notion of the divine gets hidden, when secular forces snatch the steering wheel and attempt to drive alone. But the force of spirituality never fully surrenders. God stands for our need to know ourselves, and as awareness evolves, so does God. This journey never ends. At this moment somewhere in the world a person is waking up in the middle of the night hearing a message that feels uncanny, as if arriving from another reality. Actually, there must be many such visitations every night, and the people who step forth to announce what they’ve heard form a motley crew of crazies, artists, avatars, rebels, and saints.
I've always wanted to join this motley crew, and in the following pages I get to imagine that I belong with them. Don’t we all, at some level, want to join the outsiders? Their stories tear at our hearts and uplift our souls. The lessons they learned took the human race down unknown roads. One could do worse than to jump the track of everyday life and follow them.
—Deepak Chopra, April 2012