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Authors of metaphysical, conscious-shattering novels and comics Deepak Chopra and Grant Morrison met for the first time on July 19, 2006, and shared the stage of the largest conference room at Comic-Con International in San Diego. While Morrison is well known to readers of CBR, Deepak Chopra is the author of 40 non-fiction and fiction books about spirituality, health, philosophy, mysticism, and spirituality, as well as co-founder of Virgin Comics. He was unfamiliar with the word of comics until his son, Gotham Chopra, introduced him to the medium and the works of Grant Morrison specifically. Chopra has remarked that, "everything I've been trying to say in my nonfiction work and in some of my work had been so aptly, so beautifully and so imaginatively expressed in the work of Grant Morrison."
Titans in their fields, the pair spoke before a crowd equally divided between devotees and the merely curious with the fundamentals of modern philosophies concerning consciousness and causality, and, at least ostensibly, how they related to superheroes. The two spoke as if in casual conversation, and while their trains of thought diverted frequently from comics specifically, they managed to circle back to the advertised theme of the panel: the seven spiritual laws of superheroes.
Superheroes, in Chopra's view, are not external beings.
"These are archetypal beings that stoke the fire of life and passion in our own souls. These are potentials that exist within us, and by creating these superheroes through our own collective imagination, we are in a way serving our deepest longings, our deepest aspirations, and our deepest desires to escape the world of the mundane and the ordinary and do things that are magical."
This is not to say that Morrison and Chopra believe that human beings can actually attain the powers and perform the feats of, say, Superman. But what they do believe is that by assuming the premise that superheroes are mythical beings, our imaginations can live through and be inspired by their stories, and in turn return a positive influence back into the world. Strengthening this connection between imagination and its byproducts in our reality is the notion superheroes in particular are the product of collective consciousness. In other words, the superhero universe is one to which we all contribute.
"Superman has outlived his creator," Morrison said. "He's still there. They're dead. He'll still be there when I'm dead. ... Each new generation refreshes those stories in the same way the aboriginal artists send each new generation of artists to refresh the hand-paintings on the wall. We do the same thing, we refresh this eternal myth" of Superman.
"The comic displays our ability to achieve and do things which our beyond our muscular abilities," Chopra said. "If you look at Grant's work and his contribution to Superman or The Invisibles, you see that suddenly the superhero is becoming a mythical being. It encapsulates a whole mythology of the extraordinary capabilities that human spirit is capable of. With that kind of imagination and that kind of collective participation, we reach for new raw materials. The new materials mirror what's happening in our world of technology. Nanotechnology. Space technology. Clothing technology. The new raw materials of our imagination with which we can create an age that even Homer couldn't dream of."
Morrison and Chopra agree that comics are a medium with which to map the road to a better future. Comics as a technology are derived from cave paintings, which Morrison said were magical in intent.
"If you draw a bison on the wall with spears coming at it," Morrison explains, "Presumably you hope that conceiving of that [image] and making a model and affecting the model, you hope to affect reality. It's my insane utopian hope that we can do the same with comics. Comics can make a microscopic model of reality."
According to Grant Morrison, one of the great tools we have to do this is the superhero.
"In the 1930s the superhero figure was a social reformer. Superman used to jump through the window and throw the evil wife-beating husband out. In the '40s, Superman fought in World War II. In the '50s, during the time of McCarthyism, the superhero was a cop, a kind of big brother or big daddy figure. In the '60s, the superhero was reduced to mockery. In the '70s they tried to bring the superhero back. In the '80s, which was the interesting thing, the superhero was psycho-analyzed almost out of existence. If anyone remembers 10 years ago at this comic convention, we all thought comics were finished. The superhero was dead, it was all over. And now we're seeing 10 years on this resurgence. Look at the amount of people in this place. Look at the billboards. Superman, Spider-Man and the Teen Titans are on the sides of buses. All these images of human potential are in our conscious and are manifesting themselves in the mass media."
The seven spiritual laws of superheroes mirror the seven chakras of Hinduism. Chopra explained that chakras quite literally embody the different states of consciousness. A chakra is a junction point between the metaphysical and biology. The first of these, says Chopra, is stability.
"The highest potential of human stability," Chopra says, "Is when you can have infinite centered awareness and infinite dynamism at the same time. For me, a superhero who embodies that quality would be the perfect martial artist, because in a material artist you see infinite dynamism, finesse, timing, and also centered awareness."
The second chakra is that of transformation. Morrison and Chopra's brand of philosophy suggests the one constant attribute of spirit or soul is that it is constantly and forever in transformation whilst one's essence remains the same.
"The second quality of a superhero would be that absolute allegiance to transformation," Chopra declared. "The willingness to step into the unknown. The willingness not to have a permanent identity, because all identities are provisional and temporary and transient. There is no such thing as a permanent identity ... infinite flexibility is the secret of immortality."
The third chakra is power, but not in the typical sense of physical strength or muscle. Rather, the power of intention, that, in Chopra's words, "orchestrates its own fulfillment. The organizing power of consciousness."
The fourth chakra is one that Chopra and Morrison claimed to identify in the convention hall itself: love, compassion and understanding.
"There is nothing better than love and passion and connectivity and communication," Chopra said. "At the same time, [this chakra] is connected with power, with stability, with compassion and with transformation."
Morrison's comments about Superman reflect this chakra quite profoundly.
"The American myth was created in the 1930s by two teenage boys. Prior to that myth, American heroes were cowboys or gangsters who tamed their environment with violence and guns. Those two kids created a beautiful thing which has not quite come to fruition yet, but is starting to be recognized. They created the hero who will not kill. They made that."
The fifth chakra is said to be creativity. A superhero would certainly adhere to this rule, in that no matter what the conflict is, there is a creative solution.
The sixth chakra is intuition, and the seventh is transcendence. Chopra believes that the century's superheroes both old and new should use as their basis these spiritual rules so as to magically guide the course of human history.
"And you must clothe them with good stories," he added. "Stories that are simple. Stories that have a resonant plot. Stories that have compelling characters. Stories that have the contrast between dark and light; between sacred and profane and between divine and diabolical, but which will also embody very fundamental emotions."
Chopra is disheartened with many of today's comics due to what he feels is the lack of emphasis on human emotion.
"The extraordinary and the fantastical and the imaginative are so overwhelming that they overshadow very fundamental things that make you and me move in this world." Chopra feels that things like love, devotion, loyalty, betrayal, lust, courage and fear have been sidelined in favor of extravagant ideas for their own sake.
The audience asked a number of questions, and one stood out:
"I've spoken to reps from DC and Marvel and Dark Horse. They're the first to say, 'we have the comic character out there. It doesn't make money but it tent-poles to the 'identity' and we make films and video games.' They don't give a flying fuck about the archetypal essence of the character and why it's there to affect our lives personally. [Companies don't worry about why] we care about the characters so passionately. How can we make more of people like you who tell important stories? How can you fight the wave of narcissism, 'me too,' 'let's have money, screw these archetypes?' What's our battle plan?"
Chopra and Morrison responded almost simultaneously, expressing the solution through the metaphor of a great songwriter.
"He's not writing a song, thinking, 'I'm going to make royalties.' He's writing a song," said Chopra. "He's speaking from his soul. Pursue excellence and ignore success. Then you'll be totally unstoppable."
"We need to make the cave paintings for the 21st century," said Morrison.