Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes reviewed by Anna Call Feature Image

On Books: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes

Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes reviewed by Anna Call SidebarThe Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes is a fairly typical Deepak Chopra self-help manual, complete with exercises and discussion questions. Pushing vaguely Hindu themes of transcendence and balance, his philosophy neither challenges nor reputes. It is soft, digestible. Easy.

There is an American market for an edge-less alternative to traditional Western spirituality, and for many years, Chopra has capitalized. His previous works, including The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (1994) and Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You (2010), remain Amazon success stories years after their initial release. Library shelves creak under Chopra’s accepted wisdom. He has a talent for isolating nominally wholesome aspects of a nominally foreign religious tradition and marketing them in such a way that his readers need not imagine the ghost of Edward Said judging them.

Neither Chopra’s philosophy nor his PR strategy are on review here. The ideological thesis of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes is not new or even unlikeable, and even readers unfamiliar with Chopra’s earlier work will recognize this as a fairly popular set of New Age cornerstones. If anything, Chopra’s existing market may find itself indulgently bored by what is basically a rehash of the book that helped push Chopra to success twenty years ago.

The problem with The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes is that it is not about superheroes or spiritual laws. It’s about selling a book.

This is a harsh accusation to levy upon any writer, but the conclusion is unavoidable. Some of his blanket claims regarding the general run of superheroes—“superheroes know how to allow […] universal intelligence to flow through them” (pg. 56), “Superheroes also realize that a strong intention in a noisy mind is useless” (pg. 123)—don’t make much sense in the context of the hero comics genre. In fact, many A-list supers are overtly defined by very un-Choprian dysfunctionality. Spider-Man’s heroic career began as a way to escape shy Peter Parker’s problems. The current Batwoman struggles to balance her personal life with her duty; her mind is fairly packed with noise. If heroes fit Chopra’s mold better, maybe they wouldn’t stuff themselves into revealing spandex underwear and perform destructive acrobatics on the mentally ill.

Worse still, Chopra’s lack of research is so obvious that it verges on offensive. Even where he attempts to cite specific examples of superhero spirituality to support his points, he seems to have looked into his source material perfunctorily at best. Consider this passage from page 39:

Although transformation in the superhero world may reveal itself in overt physical manifestations—Bruce Wayne transforming into Batman or the character Storm transforming into a lightning storm—in our world it is a great deal more subtle in appearance, but equally powerful in action.

It is unclear whether Chopra understands the basic nature of Ororo Monroe’s power to control the weather, much less the separate dynamics of the Marvel and DC universes.

Chopra’s intention may be good, but his apparent lack of interest will offend everyone who really does find spiritual depth in Superman. One wonders if Chopra has ever spoken to a comics fan long enough to realize how deeply the fandom cares about their heroes, and if he would have made any different creative decisions had he done so. (One wonders how he didn’t discuss the matter with pop culture thinker Grant Morrison at the San Diego Comic-Con, where they apparently sat on a panel together once.)

It is unclear whether Chopra conceived of this piece as a means of marketing his philosophy to fandom or whether he is simply naive. In a universe where Alan Moore’s Jack the Ripper has holy visions of Masonic deities, comics fans are likely to find The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes shallow at best, irritating at worst, and ultimately unworthy of their time.

 

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes
Deepak Chopra
HarperCollins e-books (May 2011)

Anna Call is a librarian and educator. She holds degrees in both creative writing and information science. After working in the private sector for a number of years, she returned to public librarianship in March of 2012. She currently works for a small rural library on the North Shore of the greater Boston area. Her interest in speculative fiction and film is rooted in the work of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

Anna writes for both Isotropic and The Big Brown Chair. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

 



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