Deepak Chopra was in the National Concert Hall in Dublin last Wednesday evening. It was a full house. I had read quite a lot of his books and I wanted to see what he was like in person. I was not disappointed. He was on stage for approximately two and a half hours and he sustained the interest of his audience over that period. His audience made just as much an impression on me as the man himself. It was predominantly a middle-class audience in their thirties forties and fifties. It struck me that these are the people that may have abandoned the Church. They are still interested in spirituality but the Church no longer appeals to them at a rational level and its ceremonies rituals and dogma are no longer sustaining their allegiance.
Spiral Dynamics is the study of the stages of development of individuals and society. It describes the stages of development as being archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral. Deepak's audience have moved beyond mythic. They no longer believe in a mythic God who is mediated through a controlling church. However in spite of their rational approach to life, they are still confronted by the mystery of their existence and where Deepak scorers over the Church is that he is able to reconcile the two. He is able to demonstrate wearing his scientist hat that science is now confirming what the mystics and the sages have been saying for thousands of years. We are all part of one consciousness. It is the structure of our brains that has fooled us into thinking that we are separate beings. However some of mankind has now evolved to such an extent that it has become aware of this reality. Consciousness is becoming aware of itself and through human beings the Universe is becoming aware of itself. Deepak is trusted because he is a scientist. As a scientist he can now demonstrate that meditation is the fastest way to move up through the stages of development. As a mystic he knows this intuitively. The mystical tradition in the church has the capacity to bring its followers on the last step of its journey to unity with God but at this time it is the Deepak Chopras and the other new lay spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle and Ken Wilber who are leading the charge in this task while the Church is left struggling with the shadow side of its mythic past where it repressed sexuality and the consequences of this repression, which were hidden for so long in the interests of the institution, are now everywhere to be seen.
So what is the Church to do? As far as those attending the Chopra seminars it probably does not have to worry. They have become what is known as self-authored. They have the capacity to access their inner wisdom and, in conjunction with others at a similar stage of development and with the guidance of the new sages, to look after themselves. However, throughout the world, there are many billions of individuals and communities who are still at a mythic stage of development and they need healthy Churches and Religions to show them what to do until such time as they develop a capacity to fend for themselves. One metaphor for this is that the Church is a safe harbour where we prepare for the open seas of life bur rather than encourage its graduates to set out on the open sea it has encouraged them to stay within the safe limits of the harbour where they only experience frustration because they are being no longer nourished by the harbour experience.