Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 80 books; the newest, The 13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure, is his 10th novel. Three of his previous novels—Buddha (2007), Jesus (2008), and Muhammad (2010), all published by HarperOne—were New York Times bestsellers. Chopra spoke with PW from his home in California and from India.
Why a novel? Why choose that form?
Fiction lends itself to speculation and to exploring the revelations of mystics and saints. I did that in my last novel too, God: A Story of Revelation (2012), where I explored the insights of ten characters from the Bible; philosophy; and Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic mysticism.
Why this book, and why now?
I have always been captivated by the mystery schools, which have existed since the Gnostics during the time of Jesus through the Middle Ages and up until modern times. Mystery schools dealt with spirituality that broke away from traditional dogma and organized religion; a mystery school is the central theme in The 13th Disciple. Also, I felt I had not given due attention to the divine feminine reflected in the New Testament, particularly the Sermon on Mount. The divine feminine speaks to our longing for beauty, intuition, joy, peace, nurturing, tenderness, forgiveness, love, compassion, and gratitude. These [qualities] are the essential message of Jesus, and I created Mare, who is the 13th disciple, to reflect them. The other characters in the book represent different attitudes prevalent today toward spirituality—the skeptic, the rationalist, the healers, agnostics, and seekers.
With its focus on ancient Christianity and a mystery to be solved, The 13th Disciple invites comparison to The Da Vinci Code. What would you say to someone who makes that comparison?
That was a spiritual thriller, and mine is a teaching novel that explores different aspects of the longing for meaning in human experience. I attended Catholic missionary schools in India, so I was influenced by those rituals and traditions. Still, India absorbed the teachings of the Christian missionaries, but added its own interpretation to make them conform to Eastern philosophy.
Why an explanatory afterword to go with the story? What does that add to the reader’s experience?
My readers expect lessons from my fictional works. For example, I wrote a nonfiction book called The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore (Harmony, 2008) and later discovered it was being used for teaching in many Unity and nonorthodox churches across the United States. I wrote the novel, Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment, (HarperOne, 2008), an imaginative rendition of the missing years, and did an afterword for that. I’ve done it in other novels.
What do you see as the greatest spiritual need of our time?
It is finding inclusiveness, rather than exclusiveness. Fundamentalists of all kinds have created divisions. That’s why people today are leaving religions—they see the limits of literal interpretations and exclusive claims to the truth, and they are seeking something beyond that.
What are you working on now?
I’m co-writing a book with Harvard geneticist Rudy Tanzi called Super Genes (Harmony, Nov.). It deals with the emerging field of epigenetics and the relationships between consciousness and biology. I’m also working with Menas Kafatos, a professor in quantum physics who originally trained at MIT. The book is called Creative Cosmos (Harmony, 2016) and is an explanation of why some scientists now consider consciousness to be a fundamental property of the universe, more fundamental than gravity and space/time.