Deepak ChopraThe title for Deepak Chopra's latest book was inspired by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." Chopra, the author of more than 40 books on spirituality and health, believes world peace will be achieved when enough individuals decide to make peace a part of their spiritual practice. The mission for Chopra's Alliance for the New Humanity, launched in December of 2003, is to create a "global community of peacemakers" and counts among its supporters many prominent business leaders, spiritual thinkers, celebrities, and artists. We spoke with the author about his hopes for peace in a "New Age."

You write that we are on the verge of a global shift in consciousness that will lead the world toward peace. One indicator you cite is that one third to one half of Americans accept some form of New Age values. What are New Age values?

New Age values are conscious evolution, a non-sectarian society, a non-military culture, global sharing, healing the environment, sustainable economies, self-determination, social justice, economic empowerment of the poor, love, compassion in action, going beyond religious fundamentalism, going beyond nationalism-extreme nationalism, culture.

The first thing you mentioned, conscious evolution-what is that?

Well, evolution is a process in the universe that is ongoing; otherwise, our children wouldn't be smarter than us, which they are-and there wouldn't be any progress in the world. So the universe is constantly moving in the direction of higher evolutionary impulses, creativity, abstraction, and meaning. Conscious evolution is the ability of human beings to consciously participate in that process; we are a species that is conscious of our consciousness. We can actually accelerate the process through meditation, through the ability to find stillness through loving actions, through compassion and sharing, through understanding the nature of the creative process in the universe and having a sense of connection to it. So that's conscious evolution.

There's been a lot of talk about the influence of conservative values after the presidential election. Do you believe that this New Age movement is a sort of silent majority?

I hope so. If it's not, it will be soon. You need a critical mass of connectivity for that to happen. So it could be a majority but unless you get to that critical mass of connectivity, it may not really take that jump.

Americans have just re-elected a president who took the country to war. What signs do you see that make you hopeful the world is moving toward peace?

Well, first of all, whenever there is a faith transition in society, the forces of inertia and resistance also come forth as we rise in consciousness; our shadow also rises to meet the challenge. So I would say, just like water boils into steam, we have the same thing happening. There's a lot of turbulence. I would interpret this turbulence and the actions of our president, and [the] fear of our collective psyche as part of the transition. We're seeing the dying carcass of the old paradigm.

At the same time that we are seeing the rise of alternative and New Age spirituality, we are witnessing a surge in religious fundamentalism. How would you convince the fundamentalists to join this New Age movement toward peace?

You can't convince anybody. You know, what happens is consciousness operates in mysterious ways. One of those ways is that the old paradigm suddenly starts to die. Just like when the Berlin Wall fell: it reached a critical mass of collective consciousness that [removing it] was no longer a terrible idea. And boom, it happened, and that's the way this will happen. You cannot convince somebody against their will-what's the expression? "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."

So you believe there will be enough people moving toward peace to render the fundamentalists irrelevant, that the movement will reach critical mass without them?

Yes, and this type of fundamentalism is also an expression of deep insecurity and fear.

You write that the world peace movement must start with a spiritual transformation at the level of each individual. How would this type of personal transformation lead to peace on a global scale?

Our most important task is to transform our consciousness so that violence is no longer an option for us in our personal lives, that understanding that a world of peace is possible only if we relate to each other as peaceful beings, one individual at a time.

Some of the movements you consider "a higher vision for humanity" include environmentalism, human rights, and "Eastern and New Age religions." Can you explain why you single out Eastern and New Age religions? One can certainly point to examples of violence committed by Buddhists and Hindus in the world.

There is some-yes. I should not have said Eastern religions-Eastern thought process perhaps. You know, religion itself, Eastern and Western, is divisive and quarrelsome anyway.

Do you think that Western religions can contribute to the peace movement as well?

Yes, I would take exception to my own statement there.

Let's talk about a real-life example. No matter what one thinks of the war in Iraq, most people would consider the recent election there a good thing. Is there a way this could have been achieved peacefully?

There are many things here that are very important to address. One is: Does the means justify the end? We read every day in the newspaper about how many Americans have died, but have you ever heard an estimate of Iraqi deaths in our media? The answer is `No.' And that's a shame, absolutely. If you go to the Internet and find estimates that in some cases-for example from The Lancet, which is a reputable medical journal in Britain, over 100 years old, estimates go to about 100,000 Iraqi deaths. Does our claiming success in an election justify the sacrifice of all these people?

The second point is that if we as a nation are so interested in democracy and say that elections are a good thing, then why don't we do that in Pakistan? And the reason we don't do that in Pakistan-we know that public opinion is so against the dictator over there-is because the dictator over there follows our instructions. He does what we tell him to. So in our own self-interest, we don't want elections in Pakistan. Self-interest always overshadows and overwhelms our desire, or rather, our so-called desire [for democracy]-it's total hypocrisy.

There's been war as long as there have been humans, but you don't believe that violence is innate?

It is part of our nature for evolutionary reasons; because of it we survived when we were in a dangerous and predatory environment and yet our evolution says that we're now in a different stage. Dr. Jonas Salk said we are in a stage he calls, `meta-biological evolution' which means, evolution beyond our biology. The evolution of our consciousness and with that, the dominant impulses become compassion, understanding, meaning, purpose, love, creativity, insight, imagination, understanding the part of intention, intuition, these are the evolutionary impulses that will overwhelm the violent impulses.

One of the obstacles toward peace you refer to is the uneven distribution of wealth. You point out that 5% of the world's population uses one third of the world's resources. It seems to me the New Age movement is based in this 5%. How do you motivate "the richest and most comfortable people in the world" to make a personal transformation toward peace?

I think it will start with self-interest. Right now, the way technology is moving, weapons of mass destruction can be miniaturized and made inexpensively. And that will render the military irrelevant. You could be sitting somewhere, in a remote part of the world with a computer and shifting electrons to basically destroy a city by cutting off its electricity and poisoning the food chain and interfering with the water supply and air traffic signals.

So if we understand that there's no way to fight stateless terrorism, then we might start to spend some significant amount of energy and effort and resources in understanding human behavior, in making friends, in understanding other people and cultures, in understanding that economic factors or disparities in social justice are all part of this tangled hierarchy. If we do that, then we could hope for a more secure and safe world. Right now, we have a myth of security and that myth says that security measures: nuclear shields, anthrax vaccines, and military make us secure. But we have all of that and we're still very insecure. In fact, the more we have, the more insecure we become.

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