<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1906385056278061&ev=PageView&noscript=1" />
Skip to main content Accessibility feedback

Deepak Chopra’s Jesus

Trent Horn

Audio only:

As a leader in New Age thought, Deepak Chopra has taken it upon himself to explain the real meaning of Jesus. But does he shed light on the real Jesus or invent a new Jesus of his own? We asked Trent Horn.


Has Deepak Chopra cracked the Jesus code? Trent Horn is next.

Cy Kellett:
Welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding, and defending your Catholic faith. I’m Cy Kellett, your host.

Probably one of the big temptations of us modern people is the temptation to think, “Now that we’re here, now that we’ve arrived in the modern world and we have all the tools of the modern world, we can look back into the past and say what things were really about.” This is a constant temptation for us modern people. “Ah, this is what the past really meant.” From our high, lofty modern perspective, we can say that. That often makes us people who are not very good listeners to what the people of earlier times said about themselves or about their beliefs, and so we ended up failing to engage.

Dr. Deepak Chopra is somebody who’s from India and comes from a tradition of understanding the world in a certain way that comes from his Hindu background. He says, “This tool that I have, and my medical training and my scientific training, I combine these tools and now I can look back and tell you what Jesus was really all about.”

There’s a certain kind of idea of “just go over all of that Christian history, which is just all misunderstanding, and we’ll go back now with the kind of light we have as modern people and tell you what that thing was really about, and in this case, what Jesus was really about.” It does strike me that there’s a fundamental problem if you won’t listen to the people who knew Him and were His actual followers, and you treat them as if they made a fundamental mistake about Him. You have no access to the past, actually.

So we invited Trent Horn to come in and talk with us about Deepak Chopra and the general modern, often called New Age, spiritual movement that says it can go and pick the truths out and get rid of the things that are just the dross. Let’s hear what Trent had to say.

Trent Horn, thank you very much for doing this with us.

Trent Horn:
Thank you so much for having me, Cy.

Cy Kellett:
And for doing all the great things you do over at trenthornpodcast.com, our competitor, by the way. We’re trying to crush you.

Trent Horn:
Collaborator. Thank you.

Cy Kellett:
Oh, collaborator. That’s what I meant to say. I get those words confused sometimes.

Trent Horn:
It’s like condemn and condone. You don’t want to confuse them.

Cy Kellett:
Exactly. Yeah, condone is the right one for this.

Trent Horn:
Yes.

Cy Kellett:
All right, Deepak Chopra. There’s kind of a television industry of spiritual enlightenment that runs the gamut from Joel Osteen, who I know we’re going to do an episode on soon, Oprah Winfrey. There used to be Joseph Campbell on PBS. Deepak Chopra is in this industry. He’s a big part of this industry, spiritually wise TV personality.

Trent Horn:
Yeah. I really want to call this the Church of Oprah, because when you look at a lot of the New Age phenomena that has captivated people on a wide scale, for most of them, you can trace it back to The Oprah Winfrey Show. Actually, a lot of people who have become national phenomena, think about Dr. Phil, for example, got their start at Oprah.

Deepak Chopra is no exception. He is an Indian-American physician and author. He’s a licensed physician, but he left a mainstream practice several decades ago to dabble in New Age medicine and New Age philosophy. He’s a prominent figure in the New Age movement, especially in the ideas of mind having power over the body and consciousness awareness as being able to supplement or replace traditional medicine.

It is certainly fascinating, but a lot of people have attached themselves to this. It’s important to empathize, I think, with people who attach themselves to this because they’re seeking solutions to many difficult problems in life that traditional medicine or other remedies haven’t provided, and so they turn to someone like Deepak Chopra, who can sometimes sound very enlightening because there are truths mixed into the falsehoods in what he talks about.

Cy Kellett:
If I may, the primary problem with the Oprah thing, she had the Law of Attraction that she was promoting. She may still do that.

Trent Horn:
The Secret. Remember The Secret?

Cy Kellett:
Yeah. Christ is God come among us. I think the primary problem, if you had to get to it, is that these movements get Christ wrong, and so they tend to not to help people relate to the true and living God, but to put up misdirections in relating to the true and living God.

Trent Horn:
Well, I think what all of them get wrong, Cy, we could compare the New Age movement, the New Age view of Jesus, to another false view of Jesus, which would be the prosperity gospel or the health and wellness gospel, the idea that if you pray hard enough and have enough faith, you’ll never be poor, you’ll never be sick. Actually, the health and wealth gospel, the prosperity gospel, relies on some of the same mind-over-matter techniques that can be found in New Age philosophy. But I think what they have in common is that they get the relationship between us and Jesus backwards. Jesus is someone who serves us rather than we are someone who serves Christ. That’s how they get it backwards.

Cy Kellett:
Fascinating.

Trent Horn:
The prosperity gospel, Jesus serves us. We pray, we do this, we do that, we get money. The New Age gospel, we have consciousness awareness and we do all of these different things, and we are enlightened like Jesus, and so Jesus serves us. He either serves us directly and He intercedes maybe providentially or miraculously in the form of the prosperity gospel, or Jesus serves us as an example. I think that’s where Chopra might say, more so even than the prosperity gospel teachers would say, like Joel… Well, Joel Osteen, he says he’s not prosperity gospel, but he is. These individuals, Kenneth Copeland and others, would say Jesus uses His power over nature to transform your life; He serves you in that way. I think Chopra would probably say that Jesus serves us by being an example of how we should live. But, of course, it’s backwards. Christ does not serve us. We serve Him, and our ultimate goal are not rewards or benefits in this life. Mark Chapter 10, Jesus is very clear. There’s no one who has not given up mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, lands, houses who will not receive a hundredfold in the kingdom of God, which is not necessarily in this kingdom, but in the kingdom to come.

Cy Kellett:
All right, so there’s always a lot of vocabulary that comes with this. It often seems to me, although it could entirely be a misunderstanding on my part, that the vocabulary is kind of free-floating and not solidly connected to things. The word quantum, for example, will come up over and over again, and you never know what quantum means. So I want to ask you, what does Dr. Chopra say about consciousness and reality?

Trent Horn:
Well, it’s interesting. You’re right. What Deepak Chopra does ad nauseum is he will put out statements that sound profound because they have a lot of jargon and highly technical terms in them, but when you examine them, they actually have no meaning or they’re contradictory. For many people who aren’t familiar with these terms, they can feel that way. For example, if you add quantum to anything, it makes it sound futuristic, sci-fi, like the show Quantum Leap, which the word quantum just means very, very small. That’s just what the quantum is, the very, very small level of space we’re dealing with at the molecular, atomic, and the subatomic level. I always thought that was funny, that old show Quantum Leap, hoping the next leap will be the leap home. I’m sure you watch Quantum Leap. Come on.

Cy Kellett:
Are you kidding? I’ve got it memorized. Yeah, that’s Captain Archer.

Trent Horn:
Right. My point is with that, he uses these terms improperly when he… He says things like, “The human body is undergirded by a quantum mechanical body.” That’s true, our atoms obey the laws of quantum mechanics, but we are not an entire quantum mechanical body, that if we just think clearly enough, we can treat any disease we have, though that is another half-truth, because he’s right that if your mind has power over the body, there are things like the placebo effect. If you think something’s a medicine, your body might get better. There’s always these half-truths in there.

But I do want to give you one example to show what is wrong with many of the things Deepak Chopra says. There is a website called wisdomofchopra.com. You can bring it up on your computer right now, wisdomofchopra.com.

Cy Kellett:
All right, I’m doing it.

Trent Horn:
It is a random Deepak Chopra quote generator. What it does is it just takes random words and reassembles them to sound like something Deepak Chopra says. I will tell you, Cy, they are indistinguishable.

Cy Kellett:
From what he actually says.

Trent Horn:
Yeah, it’s indistinguishable from what he actually says. Here’s one that I just got, which is funny because it’s actually… This will be true but meaningless, which is a lot of what Chopra says. “The human nervous system requires exponential molecules.” That’s true. That might sound profound, right?

Cy Kellett:
Yeah. I have a lot of molecules. I’m loaded up with molecules.

Trent Horn:
Here’s another one. Here’s another one I just did. “A formless void inspires the doorway to acceptance.”

Cy Kellett:
I was thinking that myself just the other day, and then I thought, “That’s not really a thought.”

Trent Horn:
Right. No. Let me tell you this one. “Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.”

Cy Kellett:
Oh, that sounds very secret-y. That sounds very much like we’re in the Laws of Attraction now.

Trent Horn:
It is. And guess what? That is a real Chopra quote.

Cy Kellett:
Oh, wow.

Trent Horn:
See? But then here’s another one that’s not. “Your consciousness quiets an expression of knowledge.” Because it’s so similar, you have a program that can ape what he says.

It becomes very problematic, Cy, that Chopra will take things that are true but then apply them in other contexts where they no longer are true, for example, like the mind healing the body. Like I said, with the placebo effect, or even certain psychological states of being, like when you’re more depressed, your body can follow suit. But Chopra takes it a step further to think that you can do this to treat any kind of cancer. It’s just not correct.

Another one would be quantum mechanics. Here’s a quote from him. “Quantum theory implies that consciousness must exist, and that the content of the mind is the ultimate reality. If we do not look at it, the moon is gone.” He literally means that, by the way.

Cy Kellett:
Wait, what?

Trent Horn:
If we do not look at… Our consciousness creates reality. So if no one looks at the moon, the moon isn’t there.

Cy Kellett:
That’s actually not true, Dr. Chopra. The moon has no dependence on me.

Trent Horn:
But here’s the thing. What he will do in his books is he’ll point out true things in quantum mechanics, like the double-slit experiment. I’ve talked about this on my podcast. I wrote an article about it at Catholic Answers.

The thing is, Cy, when we observe things, usually we don’t change what we observe. If I look at a tree, it doesn’t affect the tree, even though the tree and I are interacting. Photons, light particles, are bouncing off the tree and hitting my eye, so we are interacting, but not affecting each other. But when we try to observe electrons or these really small particles, when you bounce a photon off of them, it changes the particle. It changes its motion. It can do something called collapsing the wave state, as quantum mechanical physicists will say, not to get too deep into the weeds.

So it’s true, our observations do change things at the quantum level, but you can’t apply that at the macro level, or with things that are called Newtonian objects, like trees or the moon. Once again, he takes things that are true in one small area and then applies it so broadly it’s not true anymore.

Cy Kellett:
Okay, so among the things he does is, and so many people have done this over the years, focus on the hidden years of Jesus. I don’t even know what to say. This is an old, almost, trick about Jesus. We focus on the hidden years, and that’s where we find the true meaning. Give us some of what Dr. Chopra says about the hidden years of Jesus.

Trent Horn:
Right. Once again, Chopra takes things that are true about Jesus. He’ll cite things that Jesus says. He’ll point out that we don’t have information for most of the period of the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. All we have is His infancy, maybe when He was two years old, when He was 12 years old, and then when He began His public ministry around the age of 30. We don’t have a lot for there.

In his book The Third Christ, Chopra makes the conclusion, he says, “Jesus did not physically descend from God’s dwelling place above the clouds, nor did He return to sit at the right hand on a literal throne.” He said, “What made Jesus the Son of God was that He achieved God consciousness.” Remember, your consciousness affects reality. He’s saying Jesus was just the master of using His consciousness to affect reality, and He could do miracles. And we could do the same if we were just as good at it as Jesus was.

So how do you become God conscious? Well, you’ve got to becoming a guru. Jesus did that. That’s why Chopra insinuates that during His hidden years, those first 30 years of His life, Jesus went to India to study with gurus. Although, he backs off the claim later in his book. This is actually a fairly old claim that people have made.

I love the hidden life stories. William Blake, in his 1808 poem-

Cy Kellett:
Jerusalem.

Trent Horn:
… And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time, yeah, they believed that Jesus went with Joseph to England to sell tin, that Jesus walked along in England, and they’ve got sites there. In 1894, a Russian author, Nicholas Notovitch, wrote a book called The Life of Saint Issa, and he claimed that he had been to a Himalayan monastery that had evidence of Jesus studying there in his early years. But then when people later went to the monastery to check it out, not only was that evidence not there, the people there said that Notovitch had never been there. It was a total fraud. There’s no evidence that Jesus ever went into India or ever really left the Holy Land.

My personal theory, Cy, this is just a personal opinion, is that after the finding of Jesus in the temple, Joseph died shortly thereafter, and Jesus cared for Mary until it was the time of his earthly ministry. That’s my personal theory of what was happening. He just lived a humble life there taking care of his mother, because she was a widow, and a Jewish son would take care of his parents. He even says this. He says, “I thought about it.” He writes here, “I meditated. All of this fits in the category of religious fiction.” He trumps it up, and then he backpedals when he knows he can’t deliver the goods.

Cy Kellett:
Right. Okay. What’s the problem, though, with saying Jesus was a guru? Lots of people would say similar things. You get the Karen Armstrong idea of basically a common, at least psychic, origin for all religion. What’s wrong with the idea that Jesus could have been a… India is not that far from… Okay, so some people think he was a guru-

Trent Horn:
The apostle Thomas traveled there. Sure, absolutely.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with saying that Jesus was a wise teacher. Everyone agrees on that point, that Jesus, even as a child, Luke 2:52 says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and what he said amazed people, speaking of His own authority. We all agree Jesus is a wise teacher. Where we disagree, is it a period or a comma? Are we going to stop there, that Jesus is just a wise teacher who wants to be an example to us, or He is a wise teacher because He’s Wisdom incarnate, He is God incarnate? Are we going to put a period after wise teacher or a comma that explains more of what that means?

The big problem with saying, though, that Jesus is a guru is that Eastern philosophy doesn’t address the perennial problem that faces humanity, which would be sin. Sin is a distinctly Western and, I would say, a Semitic concept because you also don’t find this in Greco-Roman religions either. The idea of sin is a Hebrew word that means to miss the mark, that we have failed to be conformed to the image and likeness of God, who is perfect goodness itself. In the Greco-Roman world, the gods and goddesses, they were superpower beings with the same moral deficiencies as us, if not more so. Look at Zeus and his philandering.

Cy Kellett:
Yeah, a little nastier and weirder.

Trent Horn:
Absolutely. But in Judaism and Christianity, we would say that sin, a concept also taken up in Islam, is an offense against God, who is perfect goodness itself, in violation of the laws that He has laid down for us. Sin alienates us from God, the source of all goodness itself, and so in order to be rescued from our sinful state, we have to simply accept God’s offer of salvation. We cannot get ourselves out of a sinful state on our own.

The Eastern view of salvation, Cy, is certainly not that. It says that the problem is not sin against God. Buddha, he didn’t consider himself a savior. He didn’t even do miracles to prove he was who he said he was. Rather, he believed that the source of humanity’s plight was attachment to things that are illusory or cannot satisfy us. Salvation in the Eastern sense is detaching from the material world and then following the Eightfold Path in Buddhism, right speech, right conduct, right manifestations, but it’s a very self-help kind of way.

Then, of course, it fits well in modern self-help, New Age philosophies to get yourself out of something. The guru is the model. You follow him, and you’ll see salvation. That’s why Buddha himself told his followers, “Be islands, or lamps,” depends on the translations. I like, “Be ye lamps unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge.” Buddha said, “Be lamps unto yourselves. Light your own path.”

Of course, Jesus says the opposite. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever walks with me, in me, will never see dark.” He is the light of the world, the light that has entered in to shine upon the darkness. Once again, it’s not about Jesus being an example for us. It’s about Jesus radically changing who we are.

That’s, I would say, the big problem of saying Jesus is a guru. It does not attack the problem of sin that universally affects us, and it doesn’t give us the actual solution, that is, sin is an offense against God; we must put our faith and trust in the person whose sacrifice outweighs the negative effects of all of our sins. Eastern philosophy, New Age can’t deliver that. Only the Gospel can do that.

Cy Kellett:
Does it bother you at all that this seems to suggest that this modern person can explain Jesus in a way that His own followers couldn’t explain Him, and that those who tried to live by His teachings for 2,000 years couldn’t explain Him; we had to wait around for Dr. Chopra to get an explanation of what Jesus really meant?

Trent Horn:
Right. When you read Chopra’s books, like The Third Christ and other books on Jesus, you find an interesting double standard there. On the one hand, he would say that biblical scholars who examine the canonical Gospels examine the New Testament to show us who the real Jesus is, or trying to say that the Gospels show us either that He’s merely a wise teacher, merely a human being, or that He’s the divine Son of God. He calls that fundamentalism.

He would disagree with both Bart Ehrman and someone like us or Craig Evans, who would say that Jesus is divine. He would say, “That’s fundamentalist reading of Scripture to say you can find the real Jesus by going through the Bible.” But then Chopra does precisely that when he cherry-picks Bible verses or appeals to apocryphal Gospels, like the Gospel of Thomas, to try to explain Jesus. Chopra derides people who try to show the real Jesus as a fundamentalist, simplistic reading of the text, but then he says, “Oh, by the way, here’s the real Jesus. He’s the God-conscious New Age guru.” It’s quite the double standard.

Cy Kellett:
Some of the things Jesus says are weird on the first hearing, either because, A, we’re not familiar with the reference He’s making in Scripture. He’s often referring to something that one of the prophets said, but He says it in a way where if you don’t know that reference, you’re like, “What is that weird thing He’s saying?” Among them, in the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel, Chopra makes a big deal about this, and he is not wrong. It’s very strange to our ears to hear what Jesus says in the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel.

Trent Horn:
Right. In John Chapter 10, there is a dispute. Jesus is speaking about his relationship to the Father, and He says, “I and the Father are one.” Of course, now that verse gets misinterpreted by a ton of people. The verb are or to be is actually in the plural. Some people try to collapse that to say Jesus and the Father are the same person, but that’s not what Jesus is saying there. A literal translation would be, “I and the Father, we are one,” where we’re one in purpose and unity and in the very being or essence that they share. If people take that rightfully, they are aghast at that. You’re saying that your… If you and the Father are one, you’re proclaiming yourself to be God.

Now, instead of just doubling down and saying, “Yes, I am God. Worship me,” Jesus, as He often does, He leaves His critics wiggle room. He doesn’t fully give the full force of His teaching. The Gospel of Mark, Jesus says to the disciples, He says, “To you, I speak plainly. To them, I speak in parables, so that they have…” Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus says, “Speak to them in parables so that they can move on.” If they don’t really want to enter into the kingdom, it’s something that they think is foolish, they can just move on.

What Jesus does here as His reply is He uses a rabbinic technique called qal vachomer, which in modern parlance we might call it arguing a fortiori. Basically, He’s arguing from the lesser to the greater. What He’s saying is, in John 10:34, He says, “But does not your Scripture say you are gods?” Chopra latches onto that to say, “Oh, see, Jesus is saying we’re all gods. We just have God consciousness.” But what he misses is that the word God Jesus is referring to back in the Old Testament is the Hebrew Elohim. Elohim refers to Yahweh, but it can also refer to human beings, like judges, because judges have a godlike quality. They are to judge and have authority over people.

Then in Psalm 82, it says, “You are gods, but you gods will die like men.” Psalm 82 is clearly talking about corrupt human judges. Jesus, all He’s saying to the crowd is, “You want to stone me for saying that I’m God, but in the Psalms, corrupt human judges are called gods. If they can be called gods, why can’t I be called God?” Parenthetical statement, “Because I am,” but He stops just short of making that explicit.

Cy Kellett:
What else? Have you got any other examples of Deepak Chopra, in a sense, cherry-picking in the Scriptures for things that, “Oh, see here, this is the real meaning of it. It was hidden from you before”?

Trent Horn:
Yes. Another one would be Luke 17:31, when Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is within you.” You just take that one line, “the kingdom of God is within you.” What does that mean? Oh, once again, Chopra’s God consciousness. The kingdom of God is not out there. It’s not in heaven. If I can just concentrate enough and have enough self-consciousness, I can create the kingdom of God within me. I can cure myself of cancer. I can even live forever if I was perfectly meditating.

But that’s not in the context of what Jesus is saying, because He’s challenging the Pharisees, who desire the kingdom of God, and they believe it’ll be a Davidic military kingdom, that the kingdom of God will be a visible one that others will see. It’s kind of like when Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate. He says, “Are you a king?” Jesus says, “You say that I am, but my kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would have fought. My kingdom is not of this world.” But He does have a kingdom. Jesus, He’s trying to get the Pharisees to see the kingdom of God is coming into the world, but not as a militaristic dynasty to resurrect the Davidic kingdom.

Now, there is a little bit of a question about how to translate this line. It’s recorded in Greek in Luke’s Gospel as, “He basileia tou Theou entos hymōn estin.” Basileia, kingdom. Theou, God. Entos, it could be… A lot of Bibles translate it as, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The kingdom of God is among you, the people. This is the kingdom of God. Remember, Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be.” But I’ve read other articles saying that a proper translation, and maybe the proper translation, is within you. But that does not mean the kingdom of God is generated within us.

So yeah, I would say you could say the kingdom of God is within us. Jesus says, “I and the Father will come and dwell in a man’s heart.” The kingdom of God is, in a sense, within our being, but we don’t make it. We don’t generate it through our consciousness. It’s given to us through the life of grace. That aspect of grace, sin, and salvation is really what Deepak Chopra and other New Age gurus are missing.

Once again, Christ does not exist to serve us either as an example or as some kind of a genie who grants wishes. We serve Him. It’s not about what we get out of this life. Rather, it’s about what we do until we get out of this life and enter into eternal life, not that this life isn’t important. This life, how we live, should be on a trajectory that ultimately manifests in eternal life with God, not in New Age God consciousness.

Cy Kellett:
Trent Horn. You can find him at trenthornpodcast.com. He’s also got all kinds of books, including the very big bestseller here at Catholic Answers called Why We’re Catholic. Trent, thanks very much. Really appreciate that you did this with us.

Trent Horn:
Absolutely. Thank you for having me, Cy.

Cy Kellett:
This was quantum exponential. That’s what I would say. This was a quantum exponential systematic molecular-

Trent Horn:
It was one interview. Yeah. If we make an exponential infinitesimally small thing, we’ll get one interview.

Cy Kellett:
No, I’m not using words in the way you define them, okay? Don’t impose your definitions on my fancy words. See you next time, Trent. Thanks.

Trent Horn:
Absolutely.

Cy Kellett:
I’m a Christian, so of course I would say this, but I do think this about Trent Horn. Part of why his mind is clear on things is because he has submitted to the reality that God has come among His people. Trent can look at Jesus and give us a clearer understanding than those who have not submitted to this reality, to this truth, because submitting to that truth allows us to listen. It allows us to listen to what Jesus Himself said. It allows us to say, “My opinions are not what’s important here. What’s important, what really happened there in Judea in 30 AD? I really want to know what actually happened. What was Jesus actually talking about?”

It’s not fundamentalism to study carefully the Scriptures, to try to arrive not just at some fascinating little proof text over here that supports my view of the world. No, that’s not what the Scripture is there for. The Scriptures are there to give us a new view of the world, if we attend to them in a holistic way. That holistic way comes from submitting to the person of Jesus as the Lord, as God, and trusting Him when He said the Father would send the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth.

Hey, if you like this podcast, we like you, and so we’d like you to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher. I know, everybody’s all up about how the tech companies are evil. Maybe that’s true, but you should subscribe so that you can get all this good stuff. Maybe we’ll use what the world misuses to do what God would intend for it to do, talk about Him and His son.

Also, if you’re watching on YouTube, would you just like and subscribe? It makes us feel really good, and it helps to grow the podcast.

Cy Kellett:
You can send us an email. We’re available to you anytime at [email protected] [email protected] is our email address. Maybe you got an idea for an upcoming episode. Maybe you have an idea for a person whose teaching that we should investigate using the tools of the traditions of Catholic thought. We’d be happy to do that as well.

Also, you can support us. Just go to givecatholic.com.

I’m Cy Kellett, your host. We’ll see you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

Related

Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission! Donate