The Incarnation and the “New Age” Christ

The Incarnation, explains the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it” (No. 461).

And: “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith” (No. 463). The historical fact of God becoming man and dwelling among us (see Jn 1:1-18) is at the heart of orthodox Christianity. To deny it, or to redefine it, is to reject Christ, His teachings and His Church.

Many people, of course, do deny it. But others seek to radically redefine who Jesus was and is. In doing so, they claim to have found the “real Jesus,” the “cosmic Christ,” even “Christ consciousness.” In recent decades, the counterfeit Christ of the New Age movement has made serious inroads into popular culture. In 2008, the prolific New Age author Deepak Chopra wrote a best-selling book, “The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore,” which summarized many of the prevalent themes of what can be generally called the “New Age Jesus.” There are four points of essential difference between the Incarnate Son of God — fully divine, fully human — and the Christ of Chopra.

The first is that Chopra’s Christ has little or nothing to do with history. In fact, that is the entire point of “The Third Jesus.” The first Jesus, Chopra says, “is historical, and we know next to nothing about him.” Chopra goes to great and contradictory lengths to dismiss nearly all historical evidence for Jesus: “This historical Jesus has been lost ... swept away by history.” No actual argument is given for this view, and Chopra either completely ignores or is unaware of the copious amount of historical research showing the veracity of the four Gospels.

Second, Chopra’s Christ has no connection to either doctrine or the Church. The “second Jesus,” he writes, is “the Jesus built up over thousands of years by theologians and other scholars.” This Jesus “never existed” and “doesn’t even lay claim to the fleeting substance of the first Jesus.” Unfortunately for him, Chopra doesn’t appear to know much about actual Church teaching, saying this supposedly nonexistent Jesus created by the Church “is the Holy Ghost, the Three-in-One Christ, the source of sacraments and prayers that were unknown to the rabbi Jesus when he walked the earth.” One question immediately arises: If the historical Jesus has been “swept away by history” — as Chopra blithely stated just paragraphs before — how do we know what was known or unknown to Him?

The third point is that Chopra’s “Third Jesus” is not really unique, nor did he come to offer salvation from sin. The New Age Jesus is simply a man who “taught his followers how to reach God-consciousness.” He was, Chopra says, “a savior,” but not “the savior, not the one and only Son of God. Rather, Jesus embodied the highest level of enlightenment.... Jesus intended to save the world by showing others the path to God-consciousness.” Chopra’s beliefs — however inconsistent and self-contradicting — are pantheistic. God is Everything and impersonal. His books and tapes present a monism for the masses, where pantheism and televangelism meet and become what I call “panthevangelism.”

Which brings us to the key final point: following the New Age Jesus is really an exercise in self-worship. “Once we see Jesus as a teacher of enlightenment,” Chopra assures readers, “faith changes its focus. You don’t need to have faith in the Messiah or his mission. Instead, you have faith in the vision of higher consciousness.” What, exactly, does that mean? When one achieves God-consciousness “wholeness prevails.… The experience of God turns into a constant for one reason alone: ‘I’ and ‘God’ become one and the same.”

In the end, following Chopra’s “logic,” you are God and Jesus is actually unnecessary! It turns out that the New Age Jesus, in the end, is simply an old falsehood, meant to confuse minds and destroy souls.

Carl E. Olson is the editor of Ignatius Insight ( He and his family live in Eugene, Oregon.