Prolific and bestselling author Deepak Chopra continues his exploration of the nature of God in this fourth book of his Enlightenment series for HarperOne. GOD: A STORY OF REVELATION looks at the "evolution" of God through the eyes of 10 religious figures who claim to have had special encounters with the deity. Chopra's purpose, he writes, is to show the common threads that run through the stories of these experiences, revealing a God who is more alike than different as perceived by followers of various religious traditions.
Chopra opens with the Old Testament story of Job, who lost everything, suffered greatly as a result, and had everything restored to him following a personal encounter with God. As he does in each chapter, Chopra devotes about two-thirds of the content to an imaginative, fictional account of pivotal moments in the person's life, followed by a section titled "Revealing the Vision," Chopra's nonfiction analysis of the mystical moments he has just described. It's in these sections that some of the fictional stories begin to make sense, as the author explains what each encounter means within the context of its specific religious tradition.
"One of the book's strongest sections is the epilogue, in which the author weaves together the primary, ever-changing, and seemingly distinct views of God by bringing it all full circle."
Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam are represented, but not necessarily by the most prominent mystics of each tradition (such as the Puritan Anne Hutchinson and the martyr Giordano Bruno, with whom even many Christians are unfamiliar). There's also a chapter on one historical figure who seems out of place in a book about mystical encounters with God: the Greek philosopher Socrates. Yet Chopra examines the philosopher's experiences in a way that appropriately places him in the company of the other nine religious figures.
One of the book's strongest sections is the epilogue, in which the author weaves together the primary, ever-changing, and seemingly distinct views of God by bringing it all full circle. "'God' is an empty term except as it finds expression through the revelations of all the saints, prophets, and mystics of history," Chopra writes in the prologue. By the time we reach the epilogue, we are convinced that our secular, fact-based society has been deprived of a special revelation of God, one that depends not on verifiable proof but on a spiritual journey that results in a personal connection with God. "We are like a culture that once had telephones until they stopped working. We try to talk to God, only to hear dead silence on the line," he writes in the epilogue. Others before us, including the 10 Chopra writes about, have heard the voice; why can't we? The author then lays out the four paths common to those who seek God --- devotion, understanding, service and meditation --- all of which are as accessible to us today as they were to seekers in the past.
Longtime readers and followers of Chopra will likely consider this to be another of his books worth owning. Newcomers, however, may find it confusing, especially those who have little or no understanding of the religious traditions behind the fictional accounts. Those stories were at times hard to follow and contributed little to an overall understanding of the person's experience with God. Some Christians, of course, will take issue with Chopra's inclusion of Eastern faiths and his validation of the related mystical encounters. GOD: A STORY OF REVELATION is clearly for those who have some knowledge of both Eastern and Western religious traditions and who appreciate Chopra's blending of those traditions.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 21, 2012
God: A Story of Revelation