What Dr. Deepak Chopra needs to learn from Prof. Nassim Taleb

Photo by Mitchell Aidelbaum

I am writing in the spirit of “iron sharpens iron”. I expect that enlightened people don’t take criticisms personally whether intended to be personal, or as in this case, not. I have deep respect for Dr. Deepak Chopra.

He has been involved in some incidents worth discussing, because there’s a lesson in the back-story that someone could learn from, if not necessarily him. Dr. Chopra keeps posting insulting tweets aimed at President Donald Trump. While some of his fans chime in with their own barbs, others are offended, which means that it’s costing him some good-will from potential customers and allies.

He also makes a lot of remarks that appear to be calculated to win the approval of what you might call “globalists” (those working towards one world government, mostly via regulation of international trade, and also some occasional outright military conquests). Like the time he lectured the rest of us about the need for open borders just before arriving in Israel! The state of Israel doesn’t just build walls around itself, and do its own extreme vetting of immigrants, who have to be either Jewish, or chattel with no rights to citizenship; it also builds walls around its captives in neighboring economic colonies, and transfers Palestinian lands to settlers, who receive government subsidies. Palestinians who need emergency medical treatment sometimes die at the checkpoints. More recently, he was lecturing to us as a guest of hosts in Saudi Arabia, a country whose government sponsors invasions of its neighbors and terrorist attacks worldwide. Really, did he think we wouldn’t notice, or call him out?

He’s OK with them having a wall, but not us.

 

Here is another of his recent exchanges:

Another double-standard. What does he mean by “qualify”? How come “competition” is good for some people but not others? What about affirmative action?!

If competition is good for some individuals, is it good for corporations? Is it good for other countries too, or just the “western” countries? Why doesn’t Dr. Chopra address Americans’ reasonable concerns that they are competing against labor pools that they are forced to subsidize?! What about unilateral trade barriers? Currency manipulations? Trade cartels? Government-business cronyism?

This is blatant virtue-signaling; there’s no principle here except unilateral self-interest.

Regardless what you think of President Trump, something is not right here. Some other time, I’ll explain what is meant by the term “enlightened”, in the context of referring to practitioners of certain spiritual disciplines. For now, let me just say that it doesn’t make sense for someone who is supposed to be “enlightened”, or at least reasonably far along the path to that destination, to engage in that kind of behavior.

Let me be clear here: I’m not referring to hypocrisy, which, while relevant, is not the bigger issue; I mean it doesn’t make sense at all. Enlightenment is a transformational experience. It’s not something you think or know; it involves a radical transformation of your personality, and how you interpret your experiences.

These changes are typical:

  • You become super-rational as the result of losing a lot of your purely conditioned beliefs and associations that cause you to have irrational or evidence-resistant beliefs. If you think in terms of Pavlov’s dogs, it would be as though they figure out that the bell has nothing to do with being fed, and start making a conscious decision whether to respond to it or not.
  • You act less out of impulse and unconscious habit, and more out of consciously weighing future costs and benefits.
  • Your behavior becomes less overall reactive, and more overall proactive. More of your behavior is planned, rather than just a reaction to circumstances. In NLP terms, you’d be said to be “at cause” rather than “at effect”.
  • You stop making moral judgments based on fear and habit. You either become a sociopath (like Adi Da or Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh ) or a saint. The only difference would be whether your feelings towards others are hostile or benevolent.
  • Your sense of “self” and “other-than-self” are dissolved and replaced with a new and more adaptable sense-of-self. You stop acting in order to maintain consistency with a self-image; you can act out of character any time you need to in order to solve a problem. You might even reach a stage where your personality keeps adapting optimally to current conditions, and I don’t mean over the years, but within seconds!
  • You develop more ability to simulate various different perspectives other than just your own self-centered perspective. You become more aware of other people’s perspectives, “objective” perspectives, and even a sort of “God’s-eye” view of things.

It happens at a profound level; it’s not a superficial attitude or self-image. It would be more like if an ape could make a plan to rewire his neurology, and eventually start thinking more like a human, except that in this case it’s going from human to the next level higher. It’s evolution as a conscious process instead of random selection, although random selection will still decide if it’s successful or not.

Dr. Chopra’s virtue signaling is, if anything, a regression to a lower state of consciousness. Why on earth would he casually set aside so much work to reach a higher state of consciousness, just to try to score a few points with the globalists?

But wait! It gets even more ridiculous. Does he actually win any points? Read his Wikipedia entry:

Deepak Chopra is…a prominent figure in the New Age movement.

Chopra believes that a person may attain “perfect health”, a condition “that is free from disease, that never feels pain”, and “that cannot age or die”.[11][12] Seeing the human body as being undergirded by a “quantum mechanical body” composed not of matter but of energy and information, he believes that “human aging is fluid and changeable; it can speed up, slow down, stop for a time, and even reverse itself,” as determined by one’s state of mind.[11][13] He claims that his practices can also treat chronic disease.[14][15] As of 2014, Deepak Chopra lived in a “health-centric” condominium in Manhattan.[16]

The ideas Chopra promotes have been regularly criticized by medical and scientific professionals as pseudoscience.[17][18][19][20] This criticism has been described as ranging “from dismissive [to] damning”.[17] For example, Robert Carroll states Chopra attempts to integrate Ayurveda with quantum mechanics to justify his teachings.[21] Chopra argues that what he calls “quantum healing” cures any manner of ailments, including cancer, through effects that he claims are literally based on the same principles as quantum mechanics.[15] This has led physicists to object to his use of the term quantum in reference to medical conditions and the human body.[15] His treatments benefit from the placebo response,[6] and some argue that his claims for the effectiveness of alternative medicine can lure sick people away from medical treatments.[17] He is placed by David Gorski among the “quacks”, “cranks” and “purveyors of woo”, and described as “arrogantly obstinate”.[22] Richard Dawkins publicly exposed Chopra, accusing him of using “quantum jargon as plausible-sounding hocus pocus”.

It goes on and on like that for some length. These are all gross misrepresentations of his positions. And he’s not a New Ager either. Instead of trying to explain how he’s being misrepresented, I’ll explain some of his real positions on things to the best of my ability and in good faith:

  1. He is skeptical of the tendency of modern medicine to interpret and oversimplify every medical condition as a chemical imbalance that is curable or at least treatable with chemicals (that is, drugs).
  2. He believes that our reactions to our experiences are at least partially a function of how we interpret them. An example would be that someone who interprets a roller-coaster ride as “thrilling” has a much different reaction to it than someone who interprets it as “terrifying”. Same experience, different reaction. This principle applies to our experiences of disease and pain as well.
  3. He believes that pure consciousness exists and is primary. Your mind doesn’t exist inside your brain; your brain exists inside your awareness—at least, to the extent that you realize or could realize that you have a brain. You are not in the room; the room is inside your awareness. It should be noted that aside from being harmless, this position requires no belief in something like “metaphysics” and is perfectly compatible with Science as long as we don’t politicize Science.
  4. He believes that the only way to transcend human suffering is by reaching a higher state of consciousness. For him, the path to get there is more-or-less westernized, watered-down Buddhism.

All of these positions are repulsive to the Modernist mindset of the globalists. The first one calls into question the value of drug therapies that create long-term income-streams via drug-dependency. This one is not just unacceptable, it’s grounds for blacklisting and harassment. Bear in mind some of the globalists’ ancestors made their fortunes in the Opium trade.

2 through 4 are violations of the Modernist principle that if it doesn’t have mass, it’s not real. It’s not uncommon for extreme materialistic scientists to claim that the mind doesn’t exist at all; that it’s an illusion: “You only think that you’re thinking!”

Aside from his thoughtcrimes, he has also offended by being Indian. Even though more Buddhist than Hindu, he’s still too Hindu for their tastes.

Strange gods

The globalists don’t like Hindus. There are probably some genetic issues at stake: the globalists seem to be covert racists even though that’s one of their own favorite accusations against others. They calculatedly size up various ethnic groups, judge them to be assets, dead weight (resulting in various aboriginal peoples facing extinction by displacement and economic starvation if not outright genocide), or potential rivals (in which case a “human rights emergency” or false-flag casus belli will suddenly appear to create a pretext for invasion, followed by ethnic cleansing), and then constantly accuse others of hostility against their favored assets. But given that a few of them have Pakistani spouses or lovers, there might be some cultural issues that explain the difference in their attitudes towards the two groups, who are genetically similar but culturally different. Perhaps a stubborn, conditioned bias against rival gods that has persisted longer than their commitment to their own gods.

Now compare and contrast to Nassim Taleb:

  • He’s Lebanese. Strike one.
  • He’s orthodox Christian. Strike two.
  • He has publicly criticized some high-ranking globalist agents, including Thomas (“Shouldn’t we be helping ISIS?”) Friedman. He frequently refers to them as “Intellectuals Yet Idiots”. Strike three, he’s out!
  • He has publicly criticized the concept of globalization per se. Strike four?
  • He too is skeptical of modern medicine. Strike five?!
  • He has discussed the phenomenon of Mithridatism, which opens him up to accusations of promoting homeopathy, even though they are distinct concepts. This alone would be a career-ender. Strike six!
  • He pointed out that homeopathy produces benign placebo effect. While this is true, anything other than an unqualified denouncement of any and all forms of alternative medicine is extremely taboo. Strike seven!
  • Is on record for criticizing Modernity’s favorite pet, “Scientism”. Strike eight!
“If you see fraud & don’t say ‘fraud’, you’re a fraud!”

To the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, Prof. Taleb has neither reached nor is actively seeking something like “enlightenment” in the samadhic sense that I am using; the concept might be culturally unfamiliar to him. His references to religious practices tend to be more immediately pragmatic and mythic than esoteric. He is, however, quite clever and original in his thinking, enough to attract the attention of other intelligent people to himself, and his background knowledge of his own and neighboring cultures and history is impressive. He probably speaks about 3 or 4 languages fluently, and seems to be comfortable with Latin.

Unlike Dr. Chopra, he doesn’t go out of his way to ingratiate himself with the Establishment. I’ve never seen a single clearly virtue-signaling tweet, but rather a lot of provocative ones.

He personally is probably blacklisted from the inner circle on account of his own thoughtcrimes, but astonishingly his work on risk management is not. Up to now he still has no trouble getting speaking engagements, including a few where he has stood up and made inflammatory comments. Somehow he has avoided total blacklisting without kissing any asses. How is this possible?!

My guess would be that his work on risk-management has made him sufficiently valuable to people who matter that he is tolerated. What about Dr. Chopra? While a Machiavellian flavor of “dark enlightenment” (the inherent moral crisis resolving to sociopathy, not sainthood) could be extremely useful to the Establishment, first of all they’re going to reject it out of hand because it’s incompatible with a lot of their Modernist assumptions, and second, there are probably hundreds of other pandits they could get it from if they had any interest. Talk about competition!

His attempts to re-package enlightenment to be more palatable to Modernist tastes (aka “Buddhism Lite”–tastes great, less filling) haven’t earned him any big-name clients that I am aware of (Oprah Winfrey? is she even a client?), nor have they been effective enough to propel the clients he does have sufficiently into Übermenschlicheit to have raised his own batch of movers-and-shakers. He knows people like Oprah Winfrey and Ken Wilber, but Sri Wilber not only has the same problem, his star has probably already peaked and is fading. At least Wilber eats his own dog-food and doesn’t behave like a cuck.

What Dr. Chopra should be doing is repackaging enlightenment for leaders, not just followers. That’s what I’m working on. You’ll notice that my own avatar is a warrior, not a monk.

Now here is Prof. Taleb’s Wikipedia entry for comparison:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Arabic: نسيم نقولا طالب‎‎, alternatively Nessim or Nissim, born 1960) is a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar, statistician, former trader, and risk analyst,[1] whose work focuses on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty. His 2007 book The Black Swan was described in a review by The Sunday Times as one of the twelve most influential books since World War II.[2]

Taleb is an author,[3] has been a professor at several universities, serving as Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering since September 2008,[4] and as co-editor in chief of the academic journal, Risk and Decision Analysis since September 2014. He has also been a practitioner of mathematical finance, a hedge fund manager, a derivatives trader and is currently listed as a scientific adviser at Universa Investments.

He criticized the risk management methods used by the finance industry and warned about financial crises, subsequently profiting from the late-2000s financial crisis.[5][6] He advocates what he calls a “black swan robust” society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events.[7] He proposes antifragility in systems, that is, an ability to benefit and grow from a certain class of random events, errors, and volatility[8] as well as “convex tinkering” as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means that decentralized experimentation outperforms directed research.[9]

Sounds much more respectful in tone than Dr. Chopra’s entry.

I’m not aware that it’s ever come to it, but I suspect if someone like Sam Harris ever came down on Nassim Taleb like he does on Dr. Chopra, Taleb would quickly recruit an army of K-selected trolls to take down him and his entourage of creepy sycophants. Dr. Chopra’s r-selected sheep would be useless in a fight; every sheep for himself!

Prof. Taleb is aware that there are costs to maintaining and speaking your own mind. He’s got some rules about how to maintain what he calls “skin in the game” or “soul in the game” (depending on the level of commitment), that have to do with not making yourself an easy target, or as he would say, “fragile”. I have a feeling that they’re going to come out in his upcoming book, “Skin in the Game”, though a few have already trickled out in his previous books and his book previews.

Takeaways:

  • People who don’t make money kissing asses don’t have to kiss asses.
  • Ass-kissing is expected, but not rewarded. All it does is confirm that you’re fragile.
  • Fragility is not a virtue. If your enemy has you up against the wall by the throat, it’s not because you’re a pacifist. If you want to be virtuous, first pin your enemy up against the wall by his throat, and then have mercy on him.
  • People who make themselves useful to leaders and doers get more respect than those who make themselves useful to followers and flunkies.
  • People who surround themselves with sheep have no one to rally against the wolves.

Reading list:

Latest book by Dr. Chopra:

Contrary to the subtitle, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with discovering your cosmic self; it’s a criticism of the materialistic view of reality. Telling me that I’m not a meat-puppet is not the same thing as telling me how to be the best spiritual being I can be. The book ends right about the point at which it would make more sense to start, or at least up-sell the reader to the next step: “Buy my home-study kit and become the Übermensch you were meant to be!”

A few earlier books by Dr. Chopra:

Prof. Taleb’s books for lay-people (Incerto):

Namaste! The Divine within me honors the Divine within you. I tell stories about lessons I've learned the hard way. Follow @KalkinTrivedi on Twitter.