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Not immune to criticism

August 2006
Not immune to criticism

There's a healthy dose of skepticism in America for anything considered "New Age." Given that Deepak Chopra is one of the leading proponents of such New Age healing and spirituality, it does not come as a surprise that he has his share of critics.

"Sly Baba" and "Hindu televangelist" are just a couple of derogatory nicknames thrown at him by critics. He has been referred to as the "godfather of new age mumbo-jumbo." "Balderdash" and "poppycock" are other descriptors in the arsenal of his detractors.

Chopra was the co-author of a controversial article titled, "Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Modern Insights Into Ancient Medicine," which was published in a 1991 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). In retrospect, and prompted by complaints from the medical community regarding the validity of the article, JAMA published a correction wherein it also noted that Chopra had misrepresented his financial interests which stood to benefit from the content of the article. In 1994, Forbes magazine described him as "the latest in a line of gurus who have prospered by blending pop-science, pop-psychology, and pop-Hinduism."

For entrenched left-brain types who steadfastly use logic as their sole tool for evaluating the world, Chopra's work may indeed appear too abstract and "far-out." His trademark phrases such as "the field of infinite potentiality," could very well leave one asking, "Huh?"

He has been taken to task by scientists for his theory of quantum healing, pinpointing a sub-atomic/sub-particle "consciousness" as the foundational determinant of all that appears in the material world, including one's health. This scientific criticism is grounded chiefly in the observation that such theories cannot be empirically validated.

One could argue though, that when one treads into topics such as transcendence and spirituality, where is the question of empirical evidence? Indeed, at times Chopra has been vindicated amidst the criticism. Perhaps the most explosive controversy he faced involved a cover story in the Weekly Standard that seemed entirely dedicated to discrediting him. Amongst other scathing allegations, the article claimed Chopra had committed plagiarism and sold mail-order herbal remedies containing high levels of rodent hair. Chopra successfully sued, and the Weekly Standard agreed to a settlement due to witness unreliability, as well as unethical acts said to have been committed by Matt Labash, the author of the article. In its June 23, 1997 issue, the magazine published a retraction for publishing a "false and misleading" cover story.

Regarding physical health, Chopra's message about quantum healing is consistent with the latest discoveries in the field of quantum science which suggests matter simply does not exist. By that criterion, life and existence itself is one big "mumbo-jumbo." Chopra just seems to be the messenger.

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