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Deepak Chopra

Quantum healing is healing the bodymind from a quantum level. That means from a level which is not manifest at a sensory level. Our bodies ultimately are fields of information, intelligence and energy. Quantum healing involves a shift in the fields of energy information, so as to bring about a correction in an idea that has gone wrong. So quantum healing involves healing one mode of consciousness, mind, to bring about changes in another mode of consciousness, body. --Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra is a graduate of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (1968) and a former leader of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's  Transcendental Meditation and Ayurvedic medicine programs.

Chopra claims that perfect health is a matter of choice and that he can identify your dosha and its state of balance or imbalance simply by taking your pulse. He claims that allergies are usually caused by poor digestion. He claims you can prevent and reverse cataracts by brushing your teeth, scraping your tongue, spitting into a cup of water, and washing your eyes for a few minutes with this mixture (Butler p. 111). According to Chopra, "contrary to our traditional notions of aging, we can learn to direct the way our bodies metabolize time" (Wheeler). Chopra also promotes aromatherapy based on the Ayurvedic metaphysical physiology. He sells oils and spices specifically aimed at appeasing Vata, Pitta or Kapha. Actually, what Chopra and other "alternative" healers sell is hope. Chopra gives hope to the dying that they will not die and hope to the living that they can live forever in perfect health. But his hope seems to be a false hope based on an unscientific imagination seeped in mysticism and cheerily dispensed gibberish. Science is unnecessary to test Ayurvedic claims since "the masters of Ayurvedic medicine can determine an herb's medicinal qualities by simply looking at it (Wheeler)."

quantum healing

Dr. Chopra has done more than any other single person to popularize the Maharishi's Ayurvedic medicine in America, including some New Age energy concepts that boldly and falsely assert a known intricately elaborate and detailed connection between quantum physics and consciousness. According to Chopra,  "We are each a localized field of energy and information with cybernetic feedback loops interacting within a nonlocal field of energy and information." He claims we can use "quantum healing" to overcome aging.  Chopra believes that the mind heals by harmonizing or balancing the "quantum mechanical body" (his term for prana or chi). He says that "simply by localizing your awareness on a source of pain, you can cause healing to begin, for the body naturally sends healing energy wherever attention is drawn." Or, as he also puts it, "If you have happy thoughts, then you make happy molecules." This "quantum mysticism" has no basis in physics or biology and represents a leap of the metaphysical imagination (Stenger). Despite the claims of Chopra and others that the mind can control diseases like cancer, the evidence from scientific studies says otherwise.* On the other hand, there is scientific evidence that optimists live longer than pessimists,* though there is no need to bring in quantum physics to explain why.

The notion that ancient Hindu mysticism is just quantum physics wrapped in metaphysical garb seems to have originated with Fritjof Capra in his book The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (1975). The book's first two parts are excellent expositions on ancient religions and modern physics. The third part, which tries to connect the two is an abysmal failure and about the purest poppycock this side of Bombay. Nevertheless, it has been this third part which has influenced numerous New Age energy medicine advocates to claim that quantum physics proves the reality of everything from chi and prana to ESP. The idea that there is such a connection is denied by most physicists but books like Capra's and Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters : An Overview of the New Physics (1976) overshadow and are much more popular than more sensible books written by physicists.

Chopra and other defenders of Ayurveda, following Capra and Zukav, are fond of claiming that modern physics has substantially validated ancient Hindu metaphysics. However, physicist Heinz R. Pagels, author of The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature vehemently rejects the notion that there is any significant connection between the discoveries of modern physicists and the metaphysical claims of Ayurveda. "No qualified physicist that I know would claim to find such a connection without knowingly committing fraud," says Dr. Pagels.

The claim that the fields of modern physics have anything to do with the "field of consciousness" is false. The notion that what physicists call "the vacuum state" has anything to do with consciousness is nonsense. The claim that large numbers of people meditating helps reduce crime and war by creating a unified field of consciousness is foolishness of a high order. The presentation of the ideas of modern physics side by side, and apparently supportive of, the ideas of the Maharishi about pure consciousness can only be intended to deceive those who might not know any better.

Reading these materials authorized by the Maharishi causes me distress because I am a man who values the truth. To see the beautiful and profound ideas of modern physics, the labor of generations of scientists, so willfully perverted provokes a feeling of compassion for those who might be taken in by these distortions. I would like to be generous to the Maharishi and his movement because it supports world peace and other high ideals. But none of these ideals could possibly be realized within the framework of a philosophy that so willfully distorts scientific truth (Pagels).

What Chopra is peddling is quantum gibberish.

deception and expanding the market

As would be expected of a guru spreading false hope, Chopra's trustworthiness has been compromised. In 1991, Chopra, when president of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, submitted a report to the Journal of the American Medical Association, along with Hari M. Sharma, MD, professor of pathology at Ohio State University College of Medicine, and Brihaspati Dev Triguna, an Ayurvedic practitioner in New Delhi, India. Chopra, Sharma and Triguna claimed they were disinterested authorities and were not affiliated with any organization that could profit by the publication of their article. But

they were intimately involved with the complex network of organizations that promote and sell the products and services about which they wrote. They misrepresented Maharishi Ayur-Veda as India's ancient system of healing, rather than what it is, a trademark line of "alternative health" products and services marketed since 1985 by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Hindu swami who founded the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement (Skolnick).

Chopra spends much of his time writing and lecturing from his base in California. He charges $25,000 per lecture performance, where he spouts out a few platitudes and give spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism. His audiences are apparently not troubled by his living in a $2.5 million house in La Jolla, California, where he parks his green Jaguar, which he can easily afford since he has amassed millions of dollars from the sales of his books, tapes, herbs, appearances, etc. Chopra is much richer and certainly more famous than he ever was as an endocrinologist or as chief of staff at New England Memorial Hospital. He left traditional medicine behind in 1981 when Triguna convinced him that if he didn't make a change he'd get heart disease. Shortly after that he got involved in Transcendental Meditation. In 1984 Chopra met the Maharishi himself and in 1985 Chopra became director of the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center for Stress Management in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Soon he was an international purveyor of herbs and tablets through Maharishi Ayurvedic products.

Perhaps the greatest deception of Ayurveda is that it cares for the person, not just the body as traditional medicine does. As Chopra puts it, "The first question an Ayurvedic doctor asks is not, 'What disease does my patient have?' but, 'Who is my patient?'"* That may be the question, but it is not a person that the doctor is healing. It is the "quantum body" or the "mind-body"; it is the dosha that needs balancing. Taking a person's pulse and telling them their dosha is unbalanced and they should eat more nuts or less spicy foods, etc., hardly shows concern for the patient as a person. Not using a current photo on your web site or on the jacket of your latest book, which would show how you are aging, is deceptive, especially since you claim to know how to overcome aging.

Self-deception is rampant in the alternative health arena, and Chopra has had his share. In Return of the Rishi he reveals what attracted him to Transcendental Meditation: it helped him overcome his dependence on alcohol, tobacco and coffee. The man was stressed by his job and his lifestyle contributed to that stress. He committed the pragmatic fallacy and became a true believer because he was now happy. Fine, but he since has gone on to try to confirm TM and Ayurveda with quantum physics, pseudoscientific writings and seminars. Even though his patients died while he was claiming he had given them perfect health, he maintained his position. And, when association with TM itself became too stressful and a hindrance to his success, he left.* (Chopra had heard that Bill Moyers wouldn't include him in his PBS series Healing and the Mind because of Chopra's association with a "cult.") He now runs the Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, California, where the mission is "to heal, to love, to transform and to serve." It is a spiritual center, where you can come to "better understand the power of your body, mind and spirit connection to both your inner and outer universe." Because many of those who come to this center are sick, one might call it a faith healing center. There are a few other things one might call it, but they might arouse Chopra's legal staff, who are fond of suing critics of their employer.

Chopra has also admitted in so many words that his Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old plagiarized Professor Robert Sapolsky's contribution to Behavioral Endocrinology.  Sapolosky is the author of chapter 10, "Neuroendocrinology of the Stress-Response." He sued Chopra in 1997 for lifting large chunks of his work without proper attribution.

Of course, Chopra has a web site where he will be honored to take your money for one of his many books, tapes, or seminars. We should not be too harsh with our guru, however. It is understandable that he would give up working in medicine in favor of working in religion. In medicine you are surrounded by sick people and constantly reminded of your own mortality. It is difficult work, often very stressful and unrewarding. As Chopra himself put it: "It's frustrating to see patients again and again, and to keep giving them sleeping pills, tranquilizers and antibiotics, for their hypertension or ulcers, when you know you're not getting rid of the problem or disease."* Also, while taking care of others, a physician might fail to take care of himself and come to require sleeping pills, tranquilizers, something to lower the blood pressure and relieve the stress in himself. In religion, on the other hand, you can surround yourself only with sycophants who demand to be deluded and deceived because it makes them feel so healthy and happy. By turning to metaphysics instead of biology, one avoids the risk of being proved wrong. It is much easier to dispense hope based on nothing to miserable people than it is to accept harsh and sometimes brutal reality while maintaining health, optimism and happiness. It is much easier for some people to face life by deceiving themselves into thinking they alone are in charge of what is real and what is true. It is much easier to find confirming evidence for a worldview than it is to do nuts-and-bolts research. It is certainly much more enjoyable to chat with Oprah Winfrey and rub elbows with the rich and famous than to watch another cancer patient die.

Why are Ayurveda and Chopra so popular?

The popularity of Ayurveda and Chopra is a testament to the failure of modern life and modern medicine to satisfy deep longings for simplicity, trust, a clean and wholesome environment, something to counteract the fragmentation, alienation and isolation that many people feel.* Hope is a powerful narcotic. Representing peace and love, caring and respect, as well as esoteric knowledge for the masses, "alternative" medicines will always be popular. And, the fact is that the "alternatives" often put people like Deepak Chopra on a much healthier track than they were on before they got involved with Ayurveda, qigong, Polar Reflex Quantum Energy Dynamics (it may not exist yet, but give it time), etc. Most people would be better off if they followed some of the sensible recommendations of the "alternatives": eat less and don't stuff yourself with fatty and sugary foods with near zero nutritional value, relax, don't smoke or drink or use other drugs to try to make you feel better, don't take things so seriously, treat other people kindly and with respect, spend more time with friends and family building relationships, quit worrying about being so successful and rich or famous, be concerned about what you put into your body and what all of us are putting into our air and water. Philosophy can serve these interests. But most people also want some sort of assurance that this is not all there is, that This is NOT It. They want to believe in immortality and "alternatives" like Ayurveda fulfill this need. The hypocrisy of a materialist advising them that materialism is the root of all evil easily slips by.

But I would ask, if Ayurveda is so wonderful and has been practiced in India for thousands of years, why doesn't Dr. Chopra return to India to live? Likewise, why don't all those who praise the wonders of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) return to China? The answer seems obvious: the wonders of Ayurveda and TCM have been greatly exaggerated. China and India are the two largest countries in the world but there has not been a run of people in the west immigrating to either country. Why? Because the chances of living a healthier, wealthier, richer life are better in America than in either India or China. Neither country is the place anyone would hold up as a paradigm of healthy people. China ranks 81st, India ranks 134th and the USA ranks 24th in overall level of health, according to the World Health Organization. Life expectancy is much greater in North America than in China or India. In 1998, life expectancy in the United States was 72.9 years for men and 83.3 years for women. In India the figures are 62.3 years for men and 63.7 years for women. China's life expectancy in 1998 was 68.3 years for men and 71.1 years for women. Does Deepak Chopra really believe that nutritional deficiency is a bigger problem in North America than in India? Does he really believe that people live longer, happier, healthier lives in India and China than here? If so, why does he stay? Can he say with a straight face: I have come from the promised land to this barren desert and I will stay here to lead you to perfect health in my new Jaguar.

I'll let Dr. Chopra have the last words:

I in fact don't believe in the existence of time. That's one thing I have to tell you, and the other is that I don't take myself or what I am doing seriously.*

I don't believe in anything supernatural.*

Hope is a sign of despair.*

Cynicism is a risk factor for sudden death from premature heart disease.*

See also alternative health practice and faith healing.

further reading

reader comments

books and articles

Ankerberg, John and John Weldon. Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (Harvest House Publishers, Inc., 1996).

Molé, Phil. Deepak's Dangerous Dogmas. Skeptic.

Butler, Kurt.  A Consumer's Guide to "Alternative Medicine": A Close Look at Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Faith-Healing, and Other Unconventional Treatments (Buffalo: Prometheus Books,1992).

Pagels, Heinz R. The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature (Simon & Schuster, 1982).

Stalker, D. and Glymour, C. Examining Holistic Medicine (Buffalo: Prometheus Books,1989).

websites

Deepak Chopra and Maharishi Ayurvedic Medicine by Thomas J. Wheeler, Ph.D.

The Maharhish Caper: Or How to Hoodwink Top Medical Journals by Andrew A. Skolnick

A letter from Heinz R. Pagels, Ph.D., Executive Director of The New York Academy of Sciences (July 1, 1986)

What's Deepak Chopra's Secret? by Gregory Dennis (New Age Journal, August 1994).

The art of the spiritual smackdown by Stephen Lemons (Salon March 7, 2000)

It's all good: The appeal of Deepak Chopra by David Beers (Salon May 10, 2001)

A Few Thoughts on Ayurvedic Mumbo-Jumbo by Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Stenger, Victor J. "Quantum Quackery," Skeptical Inquirer. January/February 1997.

An Interview with Deepak Chopra - Veronica Hay

Another interview - Daniel Redwood

Optimism 'no bearing on cancer'

blogs

My Take: Science and spirituality should be friends by Deepak Chopra "...science will have to account for why the human brain, which lives in the macro world, derives its intelligence from the micro world. Either atoms and molecules are smart, or something makes them smart. That something, I believe, will come down to a conscious universe."

RTC comments: Ever hear of the fallacy of division and the fallacy of composition? Anyway, the brain isn't intelligent: we who have brains are intelligent. Is this man's thinking always so muddled? What next? An ashtray must be intelligent because it is part of the conscious universe?

Deepak Chopra: redefining “wrong” by Phil Plait "...he has gone to the very font of new age nonsense, the Huffington Post, to spew more woo: he’s written an article about why skepticism is bad. It’s almost a bullet-pointed list of logical fallacies."

Deepak Chopra Mangles Quantum Mechanics – Again "Deepak Chopra has made a career out of misunderstanding quantum mechanics (QM) ... And now he has done it again, in that anti-science rag the Huffington Post.

Last updated 12-Sep-2014

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