Saints know God. So do prophets, mystics and Stevie Wonder. But for the rest of us, the Almighty can be, well, mighty elusive.
Is He the stern father who creates tragedies to punish us for our sins? Or the protector who helps us through tragedies of our own sinful making?
There are as many images of God as there are people on Earth, which, says Deepak Chopra, is perfectly natural. In his ambitious new book, How to Know God, the medical doctor-turned-spiritual-teacher attempts to explain how we experience the divine. His scholarly approach blends quantum physics and religious teachings to argue that in essence, we create God in our image.
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"What kind of world did God create? It depends on where you are in your awareness," Chopra says. "At the first level, which is the fight/flight response, you create a reality where survival is the most important thing. In the second level you create a reality of ambition, winning and competition. Yours is a God of the reactive response."
As we grow, our brain responds to God on other levels: intuitive, creative, visionary and ultimately sacred. Chopra has defined seven stages in all.
The idea that we can know God by looking in the mirror may inflame orthodox believers. But it's comforting to those who like their spirituality with loose reins. And that may be more of the population than we expect. A recent survey by the New York Times found that nearly half polled said they are as religious as their parents. Their definition of "religious," though, omits the Puritanism and Calvinism that formed our young nation's morality.