Dr. Deepak Chopra is arguably one of the most profound thinkers of the 21st century, with contrary opinions that confound his scientific peers. A prolific author of nearly 100 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers on topics ranging from meditation to longevity, such as Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and Quantum Healing, he is often miscategorized as a “new age” or “self-help guru,” and is criticized by quantum physicists.
As a polymath, Dr. Chopra is concurrently a physician, triptych medical school adjunct professor, and philosopher with a cohort of celebrity pals, including actress Goldie Hawn and CEO of Cybin, Doug Drysdale.
Cannabis & Tech Today couldn’t resist the opportunity to pick his brain. Sara Brittany Somerset chatted with Dr. Chopra over Zoom from her home in Jupiter, Florida, while he was in The Chopra Foundation’s offices in Tavistock, Lake Nona, Florida.
Cannabis & Tech Today: You mentioned once that psychedelics — and cannabis can be psychedelic depending on the dose — can help people lose their fear of death.
Deepak Chopra: There’s a deeper understanding of that. So, what psychedelics do is twofold. One is that psychedelics loosen the neural correlates of the conditioned mind. So, we’re all conditioned by economics, childhood, religion — you name it. Every experience conditions us so that it loosens the neural correlates of that.
It also turns out that psychedelics actually decrease the activity of a part of our brain called the “default mode network” (DMN). This is the neural correlate of our ego.
So, when it loosens these things, you experience who you are beyond the conditioned mind, and therefore there’s comfort in that. That’s one part.
Another part is that everything recycles, including plastic. Energy recycles, and matter recycles.
C&T Today: People recycle.
DC: If consciousness didn’t recycle, it would be the only exception.
C&T Today: The psychedelic experience could be a projection, a fantasy of experience.
DC: No, no. What you are seeing now is a projection fantasy. The psychedelic experience was the reality.
C&T Today: After my first ketamine experience, I lost my fear of death.
DC: Yeah, like one of my agents. Lynn Franklin was my agent for many years. She died recently of cancer, and I sat with her with a neuropsychiatrist and MD, Dr. Gita Vaid. It took her a week to 10 days before she died, and she was looking forward to her death.
C&T Today: Was that because Lynn wanted to see what would happen next, or she knew that something would?
DC: There’s something called “terminal lucidity” that happens in some people before they die; some people have it for a few seconds, for a few moments, or even for a few days. I asked my neuroscience friends if that is real or a hallucination. But some of my neuroscience friends said that occurs in about 5% of patients. So what ketamine does is enhance an experience that some people normally have.
C&T Today: Will we one day be able to transfer our consciousness into a machine or an AI?
DC: If it’s infinite, how would you transfer it? Can we transfer the activity of the mind to a computer? The answer is that some activities of the mind can be done and theoretically transferred to a laptop. If you want to open the garage door, you have a thought that triggers the door opening. Or even possibly treating people with paralysis. It would enhance rehab and things like that.
C&T Today: What is your opinion of Elon Musk’s Neuralink?
DC: Limited applications. It’s otherwise a lot of hype. I would say it’s not a bad endeavor because it’ll help people rehab. It’ll help people who are paralyzed. That’s a great promise. But don’t go all the way to say it’ll change subjective experience. It’s not possible.
However, when I read about Neuralink, which could enhance memory or treat depression, I think that’s a fantasy. Because if I ask you anything like a memory, such as, what did you have for dinner last night? Tell me.
C&T Today: Spinach tortellini.
DC: Okay. Now, I will ask you another question. Do you remember any one incident from your childhood?
C&T Today: Of course.
DC: Okay. So, where was that memory before the previous question?
C&T Today: Stored somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I suppose.
DC: But inside your brain, there is no experience from your childhood. When you retrieve a memory, the whole brain involves many separate parts of the brain. They get active in a way that neural networks connect with each other. It’s not limited to one part of the brain.
Maybe, one part of the brain gets more active, but it’s a correlated movement. That movement happens at the quantum mechanical level and is triggered by your intention to have that memory.
Still, before you had that memory, there was no memory of it in the brain. You reconstructed an experience that is now stored somewhere in your consciousness, which is what recycles.
When we talk about reincarnation, that’s what recycles.
C&T Today: I conjured the memory based on your question.
DC: Correct. So that’s what happens. The memories were conjured because you have an intention, or you have a question, or you see something that is triggered, like a deja vu experience.
C&T Today: It may sound unbelievable, but it’s much easier for me to remember things that happened when I was very young, even two or three years old, than to remember things that happened five or ten years ago — or how long ago certain things occurred.
DC: That’s all very, very good because you don’t want to! Some people remember everything in their lives, and they’re tortured. What we usually remember is what we ascribe emotional significance to.
If I ask you what you were doing last Tuesday at three o’clock or what you were thinking last year at three o’clock in the afternoon, you don’t know. Thank God. But if you knew everything you were doing at every given moment, you would have a tortured brain.
C&T Today: Everybody remembers 9/11.
DC: Yes, and everybody remembers, if they’re old enough, the assassination of John F. Kennedy or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That, or they remember their first kiss or something like that.
C&T Today: So, we remember things that are significant to us and profound human experiences.
DC: Yeah, either good or bad, it doesn’t matter, but they’re highly emotional choices. Yes.
C&T Today: Some people with severe depression have undergone electroshock therapy. One of the side effects is that it creates memory loss. Some would argue that if they can’t remember the things that upset them, they will feel less depressed. In contrast, others become more depressed because they’ve lost significant memories that made them happy, such as memories of their loved ones. Do you think that is still a valid form of therapy?
DC: No, I do not think it’s a good form of therapy, just like, at one time, they used to perform lobotomies. They cut the connection between the right and left brain, severing the corpus callosum. The future will look at these therapies as medieval and barbaric.
C&T Today: How can technology be used together to create the best health outcomes?
DC: Technology is neutral. How we use it depends on us. Technology, such as cyber hacking and nuclear weapons, can be used for diabolical purposes. Technology can ultimately create a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, and joyful world. And good health.
C&T Today: Do you think psychedelic medicine should be offered to people who are incarcerated?
DC: I think it’s a very valid question, and my answer is yes.
C&T Today: The Chopra Foundation has partnered with Cybin, a biotechnology company progressing psychedelics to therapeutics. What is the driving force of this collaboration?
DC: Cybin and I are both seeking scientific validation of what works and what may not work. There is nothing that we can say is a panacea. Still, psychedelics hold a lot of promise in treating mental and physical illness, terminal care of patients, and much more.
Our mutual goal is to make all the data and science available to the world, both professionals and the general public.
C&T Today: What is your opinion on CBD? Is it healthy and helpful to reduce inflammation, or is it snake oil?
DC: It is very beneficial to reduce inflammation.
C&T Today: Have you ever tried cannabis?
DC: During my late teens and very early twenties, I was a regular participant in a festival called Holi*, where imbibing a drink called Bhang* was part of the celebratory rituals along with dancing and throwing of colors at each other.
Since then, if I happen to be in India during the festival, I celebrate the ritual with various friends. The ritual is a celebration of divine love and everything about it is an ecstatic experience.
[Editor’s Note: Holi is a Hindu spring festival celebrated throughout North India. It is particularly popular among devotees of the god Krishna. Bhang is an edible mixture made from the flowers, leaves, and buds of the cannabis plant.]
C&T Today: Do you find cannabis beneficial to your patients or you?
DC: I personally find no need to use cannabis. The altered states it brings about are available to me in deep meditation. As for patients, yes, I recommend it in selective cases.
C&T Today: What are the most practical medical applications for cannabis consumption?
DC: Chronic pain relief, treatment for depression, anxiety, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, to name a few. Cannabis is very useful for these disorders as an adjunct in their management.
C&T Today: Do you believe in the discovery of the human body’s endocannabinoid system?
DC: Yes, this is a very important discovery. If you have a receptor, then obviously the body produces the appropriate ligand. I believe the endocannabinoid system is part of our biological self-regulation system to alleviate inflammation and facilitate homeostasis.
C&T Today: Who would you most like to consume cannabis with?
DC: I have found the celebratory ritual of Holi to be almost an ecstatic experience, and, personally, I’m not interested in using cannabis alone or in an intimate setting with friends.
C&T Today: You’ve thrown a little shade at Elon and clapped back at some physicists. Is there anyone else you want to take a shot at?
DC: Those who call me a lunatic. I was given the Ig Nobel prize for quantum mechanics, which means “the ignorance of.” So, to all of my critics: Wait for a few years and see what happens!
I hope your article might help my Wikipedia page because they say I’m not even wrong; I’m so off base when I talk about quantum mechanics. They don’t care what the data is. As long as they see something in print, they quote it. Your article will be in print, so hopefully, they’ll see –
C&T Today: The power of the printed word?
Despite his critics, and the dichotomy of his reputation as either a genius or a crackpot, Dr. Chopra’s latest two literary offerings Meta Human: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, and Living in the Light: Yoga for Self-Realization with yogi Sarah Platt-Finder, demonstrate that as a septuagenarian, he shows no signs of slowing down.
This article first appeared in Volume 4 Issue 4 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.
Header image “Deepak Chopra, M.D.” by lifescript is licensed under CC BY 2.0.