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Courtney Reimer: Hi, everyone. I'm Audible editor Courtney, and I'm here today with Deepak Chopra who, in addition to being a leader in the mind-body movement and champion of alternative healing, is also the author of 80-plus works exploring the nature of the universe and human existence, including his new one, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential. Welcome, Dr. Chopra.
Deepak Chopra: Thank you, Courtney.
CR: So, let's start right here. What exactly is a "metahuman"?
DC: Well "meta" means beyond. Human, of course, we know what that means. So metahuman is an identity which goes beyond the regular human identity which we call a person. So most persons, or people, that you meet on the street or in life, unfortunately--and I'm not saying this condescendingly, but just as an observation--they're bundles of conditioned reflexes that are constantly being triggered by people and circumstance into predictable outcomes. In other words, they're like biological robots; they're like algorithms that have been basically conditioned by the hypnosis of society, and they're rushing to conform. That's what our education is. Everybody wants to go to the best schools, thinking they offer the best education. On and on--you want to buy the best clothes, which everybody thinks are the best clothes. Or go to the best restaurants, which everybody thinks are the best restaurants.
There's no creativity, there's no insight, there's no intuition, there's no imagination, there's no higher vision, there's no transcendence. There's no concern about existential suffering, which means nobody thinks about old age until they get old. Nobody thinks about infirmity until they get sick, and nobody thinks about death until somebody dies or they're confronting their own death. So metahuman says, "Go beyond all these human constructs, find who you are, and if you really find who you are beyond your conditioned mind." And this mind has been conditioned for thousands of years, through stories, mythologies, theologies, philosophy, religion, [and] today, science, technology, social networks. In fact, if anything, the conditioning is worse today.
Nobody even knows who they are. So, metahuman is a promise that shows that once you find out who you are, it'll be your ticket to freedom, ticket to creativity, ticket even to going beyond human suffering and getting rid of useless constructs like birth and death, and even a physical body, because there's no such thing.
CR: And that's what you set out to do in Metahuman?
DC: That's the whole goal of Metahuman, to unleash your infinite potential.
CR: I think a lot of the concepts in here previously, maybe even as recently as 15 years ago, would have been considered "out there." But I feel like the time is right for something like Metahuman. Mindfulness is something people say every day. Meditation is something you hear every day. What do you think changed in the world? I know you just said that we still have a long way to go, but I feel like there is more openness to this. What do you think changed?
DC: One thing that could have changed--and I'm guessing, because human beings behave like an insane species, right?--[is] we became the controllers of what we call human civilization. We have a situation right now where, collectively, our conditioned mind has created war, terrorism, social and economic injustice, equal destruction, climate change, poison in the food chain, and mechanized death--instruments of mechanized death, drones and all kinds of computer-generated ways to kill people. So, we're risking our extinction at the moment. We need to be collectively more creative, if you want a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, and joyful world. Whether we do it at all, I don't know, but it has to be each person waking up to their own personal potential and maximizing their potential for greatness.
If there's a critical mass of that, the world will change. But even if there's not a critical mass, if you change, your world will change. Because your world is a reflection of who you are, of your mind, of your consciousness. Why the need right now? I think people have also realized, particularly in affluent countries, that all the money in the world and all the abundance in the world doesn't get rid of their anxiety. The last time I did a meta survey talking about meta everything, 99% of the human race is depressed, even though it's marginal. You know, low-grade depression, low-grade anxiety; inflammation proceeds chronic illness by 20, 30 years. So, the world is suffering, and there are two kinds of people that are suffering a lot: the extremely poor and the extremely rich.
The extremely poor can think of nothing else other than money, and the extremely rich can think of nothing else other than money. They share this together, their obsession, their anxiety, their insecurity about money. The poor think that when they get money, they'll be happier. The rich think that if they get more money, they'll be happier. They're never happy. Okay, so there is a need. Mindfulness, meditation [are] becoming part of our culture, and yet people are not fully aware of the full implications of these technologies. To be mindfully aware of experience and to be mindfully aware of the choices that you make in the moment could change your entire life.
It's not about the way mindfulness is being portrayed through all these special apps and head space and calm and all of that. It's great for stress management, yes, it is. It's good for sleep, yes, it is. But that's not why mindfulness was created by the great seers of the great wisdom traditions. They wanted to get in touch with fundamental reality--what is truth, with a capital T. Is truth your changing physical body? Is truth your changing experience of the physical world? Or is truth your changing mind? Or is truth none of the above? The answer is: anything that's changing all the time couldn't be truth. It's so ephemeral, so effervescent, so transient. Every experience is over by the time you have it. Right now, if you're listening to me, whoever is listening to me, by the time these words reach them, by the time they hear them and understand them, they're over.
So, you know, wisdom traditions have said that everyday reality is like a lucid dream in a vivid now. The great German philosopher Nietzsche said, "If you don't have chaos within you, you won't give birth to a dancing star," so this the right moment. Also, quoting philosophers, Wittgenstein said, "Our life is a dream. We are asleep, but once in a while we wake up enough to know that we're dreaming." So Metahuman is an invitation to wake up from the dream and discover who the dreamer is. The dreams change, but the dreamer is the same.
CR: I love that. Now, this gets into a deep territory, which I love. Perception versus reality: Do you think there is one reality for us to wake up to, or does everyone have a different reality? I'd love to hear you talk more about that.
DC: Okay, so let's just look at perception. Human perception is within the narrow bandwidth of experience. The human visual experience for example, is between 300 to approximately 800 nanometers. Nanometer is a billionth of a meter. So this is the range of frequency that human vision has access to. But this is true of sound, you have only access to sound within a certain range of vibrations, so frequencies.
CR: Like dogs can hear whistles and different things than [humans].
DC: Correct. Than dogs can or other species; whales and dolphins hear infrasonic, I don't know what that is. Okay, a bat navigates through the echo of ultrasound, I don't know what that experience is. A snake navigates through the experience of infrared radiation. Some butterflies smell the world with their antenna, hear the world with their wings, taste the world with their legs, and have 30,000 lenses to their eyes that move like a shimmering kaleidoscope. What are they looking at? I have no idea. Is there such a thing as the look of the world? What does the world really look like? What is the right picture of the world? There's no such thing. It depends on who's looking, also depends on the brain and the instruments of observation. Your brain, your senses are instruments of observation. So what you're looking at is actually not even a sliver of reality, and yet we call it reality. It's human reality, human perceptual reality.
Even that, different humans interpret differently. And the whole thing is made up, you know, like Greenwich Mean Time, it could have been Botswana Mean Time. Nation states, the border between Canada and the US, or any border for that matter. What is the color of your skin? Money. Money is the biggest thing we made up. Wall Street, colonialism, empires. We don't realize that we made it up, but we also made up what we call the human experience of the human body, the human mind, and the human universe; we made it up, it's a human construct. What we made, we can deconstruct and we can reconstruct, if we know what ultimate reality is. So, ultimate reality is not what you perceive, but what allows you to perceive. What allows you to know that you have a mind? What allows you to know that you have a so-called body? Which is actually not even a noun, it's a verb, it's a shifting stream of perceptions. What allows you to experience what you call the world? The only answer is: awareness.
The awareness of the mind is not the mind. The awareness of the body is not the body. The awareness of the world is not the world. It's intrinsically free of all these concepts, all these constructs and all these constructions. And yet, it is awareness that conceives, governs, constructs and becomes our experience of everyday reality. So, if you want to change your experience of everyday reality, first you have to question your habitual certainties of what you call reality. And just because everybody has been saying this is reality for thousands of years doesn't mean it is. In fact, even Einstein was a naïve realist, which means that he thought that the picture of the world was the look of it. He said in one of his statements, "The moon would still be there if no one was looking at it." He was wrong, even space time would not be there if no one was looking at it. Because, even space time is an experience in consciousness. You can't see space. Look at me right now; you can see me, but you can't see space. And yet, you experience space.
You can't see time; it's an abstract thing. And yet, we run our lives with time. We have constructs of birth and death as a result of the experience of time, and yet, time is a very provisional relative experience depending on where you are and even on which planet you are. Now, forget about where you are on planet Earth. Greenwich Mean Time applies [if] you're in Greenwich or London right now, not in California. Imagine if you were on Jupiter or Mars, or even the Moon or some other little planet in the Milky Way galaxy.
CR: What time is it there?
DC: What time is it there? If you were looking at planet Earth from, let's say, some location--a planet that is a hundred million light years away, which means it takes a hundred million years for light to get from there to here. Let's say you're right there now, and you have this very powerful telescope, and you're looking at planet Earth, what you will see is dinosaurs. And if you were looking at this planet from even further away, you wouldn't even see animals, you would see just a bunch of rocks. So, you know, because it would take millions of years for light to reach there to have them look at us as we are now. So once you deconstruct everyday reality, you end up with only one conclusion: fundamental reality is infinite. And not only is it infinite, it has the potential for infinite thoughts, infinite modes of knowing, infinite experiences, infinite interpretations, and infinite stories.
We embed ourselves in our stories; we call it reality, but it's a movie that you're producing. You're the director, you're the protagonist, you're also actually all the sinners and all the villains; you're running the whole show, but you don't know it.
CR: I have to say, some of this, where my mind is going when you share these mind-blowing concepts, to me and to most people, is to a place in college when I may have dabbled with psychedelics. And psychedelics... hallucinogens, whatever you call them, are kind of having a moment.
DC: There's a whole chapter in the book on that.
CR: I would love for you to talk about it because Colorado just legalized psilocybin, there's the Michael Pollen book that was very popular...
DC: And which I mention in the book.
CR: Great, okay great.
DC: So yeah, psychedelics open the window to the matrix. But you should becareful when you use them, and hopefully under supervision with experts who know the dosages, in case you freak out or whatever. They're not the solution to meta-reality, but they can open the window to it; in fact, that's what happened to me. At the age of 17, I was in medical school and some students from Harvard Medical School offered me a little LSD, and it opened the window to a more fundamental reality. I never actually, except for maybe having tried them again two or three times over a lifetime, never even felt the need [for psychedelics] because I now know how to get there through transcendence and reflection and awareness about perceptual experience... and awareness of mental space.
CR: So, again, going back to this is probably mind-blowing for a lot of people and I think a lot of people probably feel like they're okay in their sort of limited "I wake up every morning at this time, I go to work, I do this thing."
DC: They'll be okay until they, at some point, lose a loved one, have a diagnosis themselves of a fatal illness, or confront old age and death. Then they'll suddenly start to wonder, "Is it all over?" And it happens. Most people live lives of quiet desperation, and they sprinkle them with moments of pleasure by going to a nice movie or having sex or getting drunk.
CR: Do you think waking up also means putting out there what you want to get back from the world?
DC: Yeah, surely. What you want is an experience ultimately realizing that all experience is impermanent. Okay, you can manifest your dreams, just remember: even when you manifest them, they're lucid dreams in a vivid now that we call the physical world. The ultimate goal of course, and you look at great spiritual traditions, you find three components of experience that are common to all. The first is transcendence, going beyond every day perception and thought and getting to the source of existence. Some people call that God, some people call it iron soft, some people call it non-local, entangled reality, some people call it spirit, some people call is cosmic consciousness, some people call it Brahman, some people call it Allah; it doesn't matter. But there is a fundamental ground of existence from which space-time, the theater of space-time, objects, sanctioned beings and causality, cause-effect relationships, emerge.
What is that fundamental reality? Can you experience it? And that is the essential religious of spiritual experience, not religious dogma but experience. That's the first component of metahuman. The second is the emergence of platonic truth--goodness, harmony, truth, beauty, love, compassion, empathy, joy, equanimity, peace of mind. I don't think anybody would deny that those are worthy experiences to have. And the third component is the loss of the fear of death, because who you really are as a conscious agent or a conscious being is not in space- time. So, if you can get those three--infinite potential, platonic values [such as] truth, goodness, beauty, harmony, love compassion, joy, equanimity, and loss of fear of death-- that's your ticket to freedom. What else do you want?
CR: You mentioned dreaming in the context of, "Is this all a dream?" but also literal dreaming. Can you talk about where sleep fits in to this?
DC: Every day we go through a cycle of deep sleep dreams and wakefulness. So right now, I'm presuming that you are awake in the regular sense, not in the meta sense, but you are at least in the waking state and people who are listening to us are in the waking state, I hope. Then tonight when they dream, they'll be in what's called the dream state, and then they'll be another state called the deep sleep state, where there's no fluctuation of consciousness; no experience but awareness is there. If somebody gets some disorder, let's say the stomach gets inflamed, even in deep sleep, they'll know something is wrong; they'll wake up. Or if somebody makes a noise, they'll wake up, which means awareness is there even in deep sleep, even though it's not having direct conscious experience.
So, waking stage is fluctuations of consciousness that give rise to perception. Dreams are fluctuations of consciousness that give rise to mental and emotional activity and images. And then deep sleep is no fluctuations but awareness is present, whether you're asleep, dreaming, or awake full. Now, there's a fourth state called transcendence, which is you can experience that source of existence even while awake, even while dreaming, even while sleeping; it's called soul consciousness in spiritual traditions. There's fifth state called cosmic consciousness. There's a sixth state called divine consciousness or refined cosmic consciousness. There's a seventh state called enlightenment or unity consciousness. Each of these states gives rise to different experiences, so knowledge is different in difference states of consciousness, reality is different in different states of consciousness, dreams are different, [and] relationships are different. Ultimate reality is not any of these states, but the potential for all these states.
So, whatever you're experiencing is right now; it's state of being. It's not fundamental being, it's a mental state of being. And you know, the best way to think of a dream is anything that you can't grasp or hold on to you. So if I asked you, can you hold on to the dream you had last night or even while you were dreaming, you couldn't. You can't hold on to it, it's on and off and on and off, which is what everyday life is; it's on and off all the time. The only continuity in our experience of life is the presence of being, the presence of consciousness which give continuity. Otherwise, experience is just a transient flash point; it's a snapshot. What gives continuity to the snapshots and makes a movie is the presence of awareness of being. When you go to see a regular movie, that's also a series of snapshots, digital or otherwise.
When you move the reel fast enough, you'll see a movie, so that's what we're doing. We're taking snapshots and the reel of experience is moving so fast it looks like a movie--the world.
CR: All of this is such heavy stuff that it's remarkable to take in; it's a lot. I've listened to most of your book; I look forward to finishing it. As I said, you have 80-plus works out in the world, where does Metahuman fit in, or how did you get to this from your prior work?
DC: My prior work started with mind-body medicine, that led to integrative medicine, integrative healing, that led to other ideas about healing, essentially. My work has always been about healing. The word healing is related to the word whole; health, healing, holy, wholeness are the same word. So my work extended from physical healing to emotional healing to intellectual healing to mental healing to healing the culture, society, [and] behaviors, but then it automatically led to the most fundamental questions of our existence. If you go on Google and you type out what are the two most important questions that science hasn't looked at, of the 125 unsolved questions, mysteries of science, the first one is, "What's the universe made of?" I addressed that in my last book, You Are the Universe. Short answer is the universe is made of nothing. So the second question is, "What's the biological bases of consciousness?" Because unless you are conscious, you wouldn't know there's a universe.
And also, how does consciousness appear as space-time, colors, objects, forms, and people if it's made of nothing? So, I'm saying that the second question, what's the biological bases of consciousness, is the wrong question. You'll never get an answer because there's no biological basis for consciousness. Biology itself is annoying an experience in consciousness. So this book extends what I wrote in You Are the Universe and goes way beyond, because it also says, "How do we know that we exist? And how do we know what we know is actually reliable?" Because if 99% of the universe is invisible, only 96% is not even atomic, four percent is atomic. Of that four percent that is atomic, 99.99% is invisible interstellar dust and the atomic universe when not being observed actually becomes waves of possibility in mathematical space, which do not exist in space or time. So, what's the universe made of? Nothing. Why does it look like what it looks like? That's this book. How can you change the way it looks? That's also this book.
CR: Once people have completed this book or audiobook, I know you also have a month of awakening that are human lessons, which I really like.
DC: Yeah, the month of awakening is exercises, meditations, reflections to gradually move you from the superstition of matter, which has bamboozled our civilization, to what is really real. And what is really real is the invisible without which the visible would not be possible.
CR: What would you say the ideal end result of someone consuming Metahuman?
DC: The ideal result would be that they know that they can shift their experience of reality of what they call reality and go beyond even the fear of death to know themselves as infinite, timeless beings that do not exist in space time and yet can create the experience of space-time.
CR: You've mentioned some pretty major thinkers who have influenced you and you bring a few up in the book. You've also influenced some great people, Oprah comes to mind. Can you talk a little more about who influences you? Big, small, little, day-to-day. Where do you draw your inspiration?
DC: I have read all of Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy as well, and so right from Plato and Socrates to Aristotle, to Parmenides to Pythagoras, up until all modern philosophers including Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein, and you name, it. Nietzsche. Schopenhauer. But I've also read Eastern philosophy and the Upanishads and the Eastern wisdom traditions. I admire the great luminaries of civilization right from pre-Greek times to modern times. In modern times, I [have] been inspired by the Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti, Atmananda Krishna Menon, also the great Indian sage by the name of Nisargadatta Maharaj, people like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and many others. Unfortunately right now, I can't say there's a political leader in the world that I can admire. It all seems to be gangster and thugs.
CR: You know I've said it several times, you put so much out into the world. If you were to say in one concise way what you hope your lasting legacy is, what would you say?
DC: I just don't see myself as having lasting legacy. I'm here to share what I've learned and then let others take it to the next level. That's how history here and human civilization evolves.
CR: I'm sure you will have a lasting legacy, whether that's your goal or not. I mean already you do.
This being Audible, we're very much into the power of audio and the power of listening. How does listening figure into your day-to-day life? Interpret that as you will.
DC: I listen to music, I listen to the Beatles, I listen to classical western music, I listen to classical Indian music, so most of my listening is music. I occasionally listen to podcasts and audiobooks when I'm traveling. Especially when I'm on a plane or on a train, I will listen to books. I'm listening to Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus at the moment and so yeah, it's a major part of my experience of everyday life.
CR: There are a lot of words in Metahuman; I don't know if you know how many exactly. You deliver them as if, no big deal, like this is just I'm talking about taking a walk to work, but it's heavy stuff. And yet, you manage to speak it all very clearly and cogently. What was the experience of narrating. Is it as easy as it is to listen to?
DC: I think it is as easy as it to listen to. Remember, I've been thinking about these matters for all my life, so they evolve over time. It's easy.
CR: How does it differ say from writing it?
DC: Same thing, my writing is also very effortless and easy, it's evolved over time. I pick up where I left off, and I don't really worry too much about whether I'm getting through or not; I just share. It's like somebody who's singing in the bathroom and some people like the tune and now a lot of people like the tune, so that's where it is.
CR: I just followed you on Instagram yesterday--delinquently, apologies--and I saw that on your profile it says, "Text me," and then it gives your phone number, which I don't have memorized.
DC: Mm-hmm. 212-444-5838, once again, 212-444-5838. Right now if you text me, you'll get a daily inspiration, you'll get a weekly blog, you'll get an occasional video if I think it'll help you in any way. But soon, you'll be able to ask me questions and I will have my biological twin on--an AI, so he's not really my biological twin, it'll be my artificial intelligence twin--and he'll be able to answer any question you have personally, because he'll be able to go through all my writing, through all my years of writing, and convert them into audible.
CR: Are you serious? AI?
DC: Yeah, I've been working on it for three years, and it should be out this November. So, you can text me any question, and I'll answer it personally for you from my library of material. Even if I have to consult other people, the AI will do it. You'll be able to get a text message back or if you want, an audible message back or a video back. You choose and I'm there to serve you.
CR: That's fantastic. I'm so glad I asked. Why is it important to you to have that sort of oneto- one relationship with your audience?
DC: I'm a big fan of technology, and I feel if technology can be used to disrupt the world and create havoc, including interfere with elections, you can also use technology to bring enlightenment, and I'm going to do it.
CR: Great, I love that. Well, Dr. Chopra, it's been really wonderful speaking with you today. I have a lot to take away and think about, as I'm sure our listeners do too.