MIDWAY : The Jedi knight

The best-selling American new age guru Deepak Chopra is fond of the word “quantum”: reading his work, one begins to suspect that he has it set up as a shortcut in Microsoft Word, so that he doesn’t have to type it out in full every time he wants to refer to “quantum health”, “quantum healing” or “the quantum mind”.

This kind of thing makes physicists want to sob uncontrollably, so they’ve learned to ignore him. But not long ago, Chopra used the word in a new context that bears closer inspection: if Barack Obama enters the White House as president next January, he declared, “it will represent a quantum leap in American consciousness”.

Chopra, it turns out, is far from alone. A curious side-story in this year’s election campaign is that the new age movement in the US has embraced Obama even more fervently than most of his supporters. New agers are traditionally liberal, so it’s no surprise that they’re backing the Democratic candidate. But the question that’s been gathering steam among them in recent weeks goes much further than that, and brings a whole other dimension to the race: could Obama be a “lightworker”?

“Many spiritually advanced people I know... identify Obama as a lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who [can] actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford. The cultish side of Obama-worship has been noted before: the online magazine Slate has been running an Obama Messiah Watch, as has a blog, obamamessiah.blogspot.com. Star Wars creator George Lucas said that he thought it “reasonably obvious” that Obama was a Jedi knight.

New agers are often unfairly maligned: look at life through a slightly different lens, and you instantly get associated with a tiny handful of crystals-cure-cancer maniacs. But if they want their preferred candidate to win, they might consider keeping quiet. The right, in the form of unhinged pundit Michelle Malkin, has started exploiting the story to mock the Democrats. And Obama has quite enough to do to fight the threat of pigeonholing — as “the black candidate”, “the elite candidate” — without becoming kooky too.