|Conversations With The god Of This Age|
|Neale Donald Walsch's Connections with the dark side|
|By John Winston Moore|
|SCP Journal, volume 22:02-03, Summer/Fall 1998|
You are filled with fear--and your biggest fear
is that my biggest promise might be life's biggest lie.
The promise of God is that you are His son,
Her offspring, Its likeness, His equal. --"god"
(as quoted in Conversations with God, pp. 53,75)
This has all happened before, and it will all happen again; but this time, it happened to a man named Neale Walsch, who put it all down in a book published by Putnam and Sons that has become a huge bestseller and, no doubt, made Putnam and Sons and Mr. Walsch a lot of money. Actually, Conversations with God, Book 1 was originally put out by Hampton Roads Publishing Company, a much smaller outfit than Putnam and Sons, and became a word-of-mouth bestseller in the same manner as James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy. Putnam and Sons then released a hard-cover version of Book 1 which has been on the New York Times list of best-selling books in excess of 90 weeks (at the time of this writing). Hampton Roads has since released book 2, and a third volume is promised.
What is the source of all this publishing excitement? What is it that has propelled Book 1 to become "one of the fastest-selling New Thought books in the world!" It seems that Mr. Walsch has achieved a scoop of cosmic proportions. While others have channeled and transcribed various discarnate spirits from the great beyond (A Course In Miracles comes to mind), Mr. Walsch has been talking to the Big Man himself, or the Big Woman, or the Big It, or . . . what have you. God, or something that would be pleased to have itself known as God, apparently has given Mr. Walsch the answers to "practically all" of life's biggest questions, as put to him/her/it (we will call it "god" for the sake of readability) by Mr. Walsch: When will my life take off? Is there any way to be happy in relationships? Why can't I ever seem to attract enough money into my life? What is the karmic lesson I'm supposed to be learning? Is sex okay? Is there life on other planets? Will utopia ever come to the planet Earth? And more, so much more. And, as a bonus, in the process of answering these and other questions, "god" is pleased to reveal to Mr. Walsch things that had not even been asked: principally, the fact that Mr. Walsch himself is none other than God. Of course, it is not quite as exclusive as it sounds; according to god, we are all of us God. If this sounds familiar, it may be because "god" has been working this same territory for quite a while now (see Genesis chapter 3).
Mr. Walsch is now on quite a roll, enjoying tremendous publishing success even as he revels in his newfound identity. But things weren't always so rosy, as he reveals in autobiographical episodes in his book. In the spring of 1992, Walsch was a very unhappy man--frustrated by life, bitter after a series of four failed marriages (!), worn out from "thirty years of seeking the truth." At this critical juncture in his life, he decided to do something drastic:
I picked up my trusty yellow legal pad and began pouring out my feelings. This time, rather than another letter to another person I imagined to be victimizing me, I thought I would go straight to the source; straight to the greatest victimizer of them all. I decided to write a letter to God. (p.1)
As he finished his "spiteful, passionate letter, full of confusions, contortions, and condemnations," an amazing thing happened. His pen, still poised above the legal pad froze, suspended, and then suddenly "began moving on its own." The first message to come across the page:
Do you really want answers to all these questions, or are you just venting? (p.1)
Thus began the conversations. The automatic pen sounded like a Rogerian therapist. In time, the topics would move beyond this prosaic beginning to truly weighty matters, such as pleasing yourself before pleasing others:
Give yourself abundant pleasure, and you will have abundant pleasure to give to others. The masters of Tantric sex know this. That's why they encourage masturbation. . . . Tantric lovers, therefore, often self-pleasure before they pleasure each other. 1
This quote is actually from Book 2, where the material apparently gets a little more challenging. As Walsch himself acknowledges:
The information [in Book2] on time and on human sexuality had some surprising twists. . (Walsch as quoted in Jackson, 1997).
"Surprising twists?" It seems that Book 2 is the next level, and Book 3, due out in November of 1998, promises to go even further still. But Book 1 was the primer, the entry-level doorway through which the masses might be reached. Walsch calls Book 1 a "big hug." If this was the plan, it has worked to perfection:
Reaction to Book I has been swift and strong. The book is being translated into twenty languages. Walsch now routinely hears from leaders in the worlds of government, culture, politics, and entertainment. "I hold out great hope, great hope," he says. "I assure you its messages are being heard in the highest levels. I see now this book will have an enormous planetary impact. If nothing else, it will create a new dialog." (Jackson, 1997)
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Questions immediately arise: is this a real phenomenon that Walsch reports? And, if so, with whom or what is Walsch corresponding? The phenomenon of automatic writing, or "channeled writing" is certainly not unheard of in our era--the most outstanding example probably being A Course In Miracles, the multi-volume tome channeled by Helen Shucman which continues to be the New Age cornerstone text. To be sure, the conversational entity of Conversations identifies itself as the author of A Course In Miracles as well:
god: . . .All attack is a call for help
Walsch: I read that in A Course In Miracles
god: I put it there. (p.90)
After reading Walsch's book, I am willing to believe that his "conversations" could be the real thing--actual two-party conversations. Other reviewers have not been as kind--J. Budziszewski, writing for the National Review, titles his scathing review Conversations with Himself.2 Walsch himself even seems to be somewhat of an agnostic at points in the book: "it feels like I'm sitting here writing this to myself." (p.59) "You are," comes the answer.
But, if it is a "real" conversation, with whom is Walsch conversing? Walsch's correspondent is happy to identify itself on many occasions; the following self-description is fairly representative:
. . .you are a microcosm of Me--the Divine All, the Holy Everything, the Sum and Substance . . . the Alpha and the Omega . . . Yes, I am God, as you now understand Him. I am Goddess as you now comprehend Her, I am the Conceiver and the Creator of Everything you now know and experience, and you are My children. . .even as I am the child of another. (p.197)
God is the "child of another?" Yes, indeed, and this is just one of the cosmic mysteries that will be revealed as you work your way through this book. In fact, everything you thought you knew about God will have to be scrapped. As Benjamin Crème says in his lectures about the soon appearance of the coming Christ Maitreya: "put aside, just for tonight, everything you think you know about the Christ." Even so, Walsch is out to correct every wrong notion that we ever had concerning the Eternal One. As it turns out, God is not the "greatest victimizer of them all." God is unconditionally loving (he even loves Hitler, see p.61), non-judgmental, thoroughly modern--not at all like that "neurotic God" (p.116) that Walsch grew up with and can now, thankfully, discard.
Some Selected Teachings
So, what does Walsch's god have to say about such things as the self, God, the true nature of reality, the Bible, and Jesus, not to mention how we might eventually "attract enough money into our lives?"
If any one aspect of this dark book stands above the others, it is the unabashed shrine to self that the book erects. Walsch's "conversation" reads like an experiment in self-esteem gone horribly, terribly awry.
Yet if you knew Who You Are--that you are the most magnificent, the most remarkable, the most splendid being God has ever created--you would never fear. For who could reject such wondrous magnificence? Not even God could find fault in such a being. (p.16)
Lest we be tempted to think that perhaps god is kidding, the sentiment is backed up many, many times:
Let us say that you are, at the core of your wonderful Self, that aspect of divinity called love. (This is, by the way, the Truth of you.) (p.101)
The identification of the self (Walsch) as God is essentially the theme of the book. There are no limits on self, at least no limits imposed by god. It is a sovereign self:
The answer is: you have no obligation. Neither in relationship, nor in all of life. . .Nor are you bound by any circumstances or situations, nor constrained by any code or law. Nor are you punishable for any offense, nor capable of any--for there is no such thing as being "offensive" in the eyes of God. (p.135)
Never deny passion, for that is to deny Who You Are and Who You Truly Want to Be. (p.101)
As the Capital Letters imply, when the self has discovered what it truly wants to be, when it has "remembered" what it is, it has become God. This is the theology of a kind of human/divine Peter Pan, a theology for someone who never grew up, and never wants to, but nevertheless feels entitled to be God.
As J. Budziszewski comments:
Theoretical pantheism is practical metheism; that's why Conversations with God: Book 1 has been on the New York Times best-seller list for more than a year, put there by my generation and the generation we raised. Read it as a mirror of the age. 3
A "mirror of the age" it is indeed. And more than a mirror, this book reads like an indictment, both of Walsch and of the readership that propelled this book to bestseller status. But it is beyond Walsch to be ashamed, or denied. Has not his god after all declared:
Let each person in relationship worry not about the other, but only, only, only about Self. . .The most loving person is the person who is Self-centered. (p.124)
Strangely, I believe I remember a slightly different teaching from another teacher who claimed to be One with the Father:
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. (Matthew, 10:38,39)
We will look at the deconstruction of Jesus in Conversations with God later, but first, let us turn to the flip-side of the "Self"--the nature of God according to god.
The essential problem with our understanding of God, according to god, can be found in the "first lie--the lie which you hold to be the truth about God--that God cannot be trusted; that God's love is conditional; that the ultimate outcome is in doubt." To correct this error, god first erects the straw-man of the "neurotic" god who needs desperately to be loved and banishes humans to eternal damnation if they don't follow his arbitrary rules. This is Walsch's god's caricature of the God revealed in the Bible.
You have projected the role of "parent" onto God, and have thus come up with a God who judges and rewards or punishes, based on how good He feels about what you've been up to. But this is a simplistic view of God, based on your mythology. It has nothing to do with Who I Am. (p.17)
Then this broad minded god reveals what he is truly like:
It is all so comforting, all so exculpatory. There is basically "no way to miss," as god puts it. To reason from Walsch's basic premise makes it all make sense: God is everything, I am God, God is me, I do not judge myself. It is a very reassuring mantra, as long as you can maintain the psychic energy required to believe in yourself as God (this book should help). But if a crack appears in that foundation, the entire enterprise quickly reduces itself to rubble, leaving the practitioner alone in a vast, barren landscape facing the Truth about God. What if it turns out there really is another beside yourself?
Perhaps it would be wise to consider, if only momentarily, what the Bible has to say about God. Now we know, from the writings of the Apostle John for instance, that "God is love," it is one of His essential characteristics:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
However, we also know that God is holy and righteous, and that He reserves the right to pass judgement on human lives that He has created. This is expressed in many, many places in the Old and New Testaments. Here is one example from the Gospel of John.
For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgement. (John 5:26-28)
"Not so!" says "god." This is just the sort of misconception that god is so anxious to clear up. Walsch's god sets about vigorously setting the record straight:
Those who taught you were wrong. I have never set down a "right" or "wrong," a "do" or a "don't." To do so would be to strip you completely of your greatest gift--the opportunity to do as you please. . . (p.39)
Who It Is has, evidently, been completely misunderstood. There are no such things as the "10 Commandments"--they are hereby converted to the "10 Commitments," the 10 signs that you are truly on the path to god. These include such wonders as Number 9:
Nor shall you covet your neighbor's spouse, for why would you want your
neighbor's spouse when you know all others are your spouse? (p.97)
Good news for swingers everywhere! God is so open, so loving, so accepting; it is truly mind-blowing.
This is the grand illusion in which you have engaged: that God cares one way or the other what you do. I do not care what you do, and that is hard for you to hear. (p.13)
The "grand illusion," that God is our loving Father, must be shattered, jumped upon, beaten into the ground over and over again. This is an interesting theory of love that god is propounding. Ultimately, we come to understand--god just doesn't care.
I tell you, I despise nothing. None of it is repulsive to Me. . . Evil is that which you call evil. Yet even that I love, for it is only through that which you call evil that you can know good. . .It is all relative. (p.61)
I do not love "good" more than I love "bad." Hitler went to heaven. When you understand this, you will understand God. (p.61, italics in the original)
"Good," "bad"--it is all relative. Mass murderers and genocidal psychopaths will be dining at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (assuming the latter set makes it). When you understand this, you will understand god.4
One thing, at least, is clear: the spirit behind Conversations with God is no loving God. It is the hater of your soul.
Truth & Reality
Walsch: Life is not a school?
Walsch: We are not here to learn lessons?
Walsch: Then why are we here?
god: To remember, and re-create, Who You Are. (p.21)
Walsch's philosophical system is essentially Monistic--the belief that God is everything, that there is nothing else. As Peter Jones brings out in Spirit Wars, this Monistic belief is the root belief system of pantheism, the age-old worldview of paganism, as well as the underlying belief system of the New Age. Interestingly, it is also the guiding spirit of the ancient Gnostic heresy, which was the mingling of pagan "Mystery religion" with Christianity. Gnosticism is alive and well today thanks to the efforts of radical New Testament scholarship; for example, in the works of such writers as John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg of the Jesus seminar (see SCP Journals 2003/4 and 2101/2, our two part series on Jesus and the Den of Thieves). Even more interestingly, the Gnostic system finds very clear expression in the pages of Conversations with God. One would be hard pressed to find a clearer modern rendering: the Self is a spark from God, existing in the illusion of the material universe. The path of salvation is a path of "remembering" Who One Is. While Walsh's god does not out and out call the God of the Bible a bungling demi-god, as did the Gnostics of old, the contempt that "god" feels towards "that neurotic God" is plain enough.
If the Conversations are to be believed (which I am not suggesting), reality is obviously far different than we, or at least I, had imagined. It was obvious to me as I read this book that I needed to learn a few new ways of looking at the truth. Allow me to guide you through some of the things I learned from the Conversations:
First we need to learn about that in which we can put our trust:
(This is the same authority to which the Heaven's Gate cult paid its highest allegiance!)
The voice within is the loudest voice with which I speak, because it is the closest to you. It is the voice which tells you whether everything else is true or false, right or wrong, good or bad as you have defined it. (p.20)
Having learned to "trust our feelings," we must now learn to live with illogic. Primary in this regard is the notion that to experience "What We Are," we must first experience what we are not.5
god: Once in the physical universe, you, My spirit children, could experience what you know of yourself--but first, you had to come to know the opposite. . .you cannot experience what you are until you've encountered what you are not. . .It is by that which you are not that you yourself are defined. . .you cannot experience yourself as Creator unless and until you create. And you cannot create yourself until you uncreate yourself. . .Do you follow?
Walsch: I think. . . (p.27)
Poor Mr. Walsch, still trying to think. But it is early in the book. Soon enough, he and we will have succumbed to the mind-numbing mumbo-jumbo. Then we will better understand what god means when he says "you must call upon yourself the darkness" (p.34). Like all Monistic systems, Walsch's spiritual world has a particular problem with evil. If God is everything, then is God also evil? To dance around this problem, god tries two tacks. First, he tries the path of relativity: there is no such thing as good and evil--only personal judgements. Second, he attempts the sleight of hand illustrated above. Essentially Daoistic, the argument hinges on the idea that to "experience" itself, a being must be in the presence of "that which it is not." But you really cannot have it both ways: God cannot be everything and also "that which he is not." It is not possible, without inducing damage to the cerebral cortex, to have good and evil be the same thing, and also have them be the opposite of each other.
But as the book displays repeatedly, god is not limited by logical contradictions. Perhaps this is why god spends so much time talking about the "incredible limitation of words." For in the mouth of this god, words are slippery things indeed. Emphatic statements made at the top of the page lose their clarity by the bottom. Things that are incontrovertible wind up being controverted. It is all part of a plan, a style of "being." As god so eloquently puts it: "Change your truth easily and quickly when your experience brings you new clarity." (p.134) This is a theology for the Manchurian Candidate, or Orwell's Room 101.
Consider these convoluted insights:
The basic principle of god's love is that there are no restrictions on behavior:
I have never set down a "right" or "wrong," a "do" or "don't." To do so would be to strip you completely of your greatest gift--the opportunity to do as you please. . .To say that something--a thought, a word, an action--is "wrong" would be as much as to tell you not to do it. To tell you not to do it would be to prohibit you. To prohibit you would be to restrict you. To restrict you would be to deny the reality of Who You Really Are. . .(p.39)
This sounds nice, but later in the book we learn that love might sometimes need to set down some rules, establish some prohibitions:
Treating others with love does not necessarily mean allowing them to do as they wish (p132).
If that sounds like a direct contradiction, it is. To verify that, in fact, god does sometimes lay down a "right" or a "wrong," we simply need to read a little further:
Of course, this comment shouldn't be construed to suggest that there is any actual reality associated with your physical life. As the book repeatedly explains: what we know as reality on the physical plane ("relative world") is an illusion (this is a direct link with the ancient Gnostic system).
. . .Nothing in the life you lead is real. . .(p.100)
The Masters who have walked this planet are those who have discovered the secret of the relative world--and refused to acknowledge its reality. (p.57)
Now back to the original point, which was that to know ourselves, we must know the opposite of what we are
Sometimes man must go to war to make the grandest statement about who man truly is: he who abhors war. . Life may more than once call upon you to prove Who You Are by demonstrating an aspect of Who You Are Not. (p.133)
In truth there is nothing evil. . .yet your very purpose in life requires you to select from the growing collection of endless phenomena a scattered few which you call evil--for unless you do, you cannot call yourself, nor anything else, good. . .(p.133)
In other words, to be truly "good," you may more than once be called upon to be something other than good--you must "call upon yourself the darkness." Good has no reality unless it is contrasted with the experience of evil. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as "good" or "evil." (That noise you hear is the sound of your brain frying.)
Of course, as god itself points out, losing one's mind in the contorted byways of the teachings in Conversations with God might not be such a bad thing. According to god, the mind is not all that useful for knowing god (this was a hallmark teaching of Indian super-guru Rajneesh):
You will never find Me in your mind. In order to truly know God, you have to be out of your mind. (p.94)
This explains a lot; for example, the teaching on prayer, or rather, both teachings on prayer:
god: You will not have that for which you ask, nor can you have anything you want. . .When you thank God in advance for that which you choose to experience in your reality, you, in effect acknowledge that it is there. . . (p.11)
god: Ask and you shall receive, speak and it shall be done unto you. (p.91, both of these statements have similarities to the doctrines of the "Word faith" movement))
So, which is it: "ask and you shall receive," or "you will not have that for which you ask?" The answer is, of course, both.
And by the way, Jesus' actual words, which "god" has twisted into a kind of "word faith" statement, were "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)
god: So who said Jesus was perfect? (p.192)
So who said that Jesus was perfect? Jesus actually gets a fair amount of coverage in Conversations with God, but always in a way designed to destroy our perceptions of his uniqueness, to demean our notion of his stature, and to mangle the meaning of his words. The immutable rule seems to be, whenever Jesus is mentioned or alluded to, make sure to reference his status as just another "one of the Masters:"
. . .as the Buddha did. As Jesus did. As did every saint you have ever idolized. (p.15)
. . .no matter which Master you might name, none imagined themselves to be victimized--though many were truly crucified. (p.33)
. . .Jesus of Nazareth, among the many who understood this mystery. . .(p.197)
The piece de resistance is the "parable of the little soul and the sun." See if you can identify the players in the following little drama:
There once was a soul who knew itself to be the light. This was a new soul, and so, anxious for experience. "I am the light," it said. "I am the light." Yet. . .in the realm from which this soul emerged, there was nothing but the light. Every soul was grand, every soul was magnificent, and every soul shone with the brilliance of My awesome light. And so the little soul in question was as a candle in the sun. . .
Now it came to pass that this soul yearned and yearned to know itself. And so great was its yearning that I one day said, "Do you know, Little One, what you must do to satisfy this yearning of yours?"
"Oh what, God? What? I'll do anything!" the little soul said.
"You must separate yourself from the rest of us," I answered," and then you must call upon yourself the darkness."
"What is the darkness, o Holy One?" the little soul asked.
"That which you are not," I replied, and the soul understood.
And so this the soul did, removing itself from the All, yea going even unto another realm. And in this realm the soul had the power to call into its experience all sorts of darkness. And this it did.
Yet in the midst of all the darkness did it cry out, "Father, Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Yet I have never forsaken you, but stand by you always, ready to remind you of Who You Really Are; ready, always ready, to call you home. (p.34, see Mark 16:34)
Although "god" dismisses Jesus here as a "new soul" and a "candle in the sun," it does make an interesting concession later on, calling him "man's eternal salvation."
He allowed himself to be crucified in order that he might stand as man's eternal salvation. (p.52)
Immediately, however, the fix is in:
Look, he [Jesus] said, at what I can do, and know that these things, and more, shall you also do. For have I not said, ye are gods? If you cannot, then, believe in yourself, believe in me. (p.52)
Walsch/god is here shamelessly twisting the words of Jesus to fit the agenda (see Gospel of John, Chapter 10 for the original words of Jesus). Jesus is a means of salvation only for those weak individuals who cannot believe in themselves. The best path is to "believe in yourself." Jesus is the savior of last resort. The next paragraph makes this plain, and also offers up Jesus as the means of a universal salvation to all, regardless.
Such was Jesus' compassion that he begged for a way--and created it--to so impact the world that all might come to heaven (Self realization)--if in no other way, then through him. (p.52)
When words are meaningless, they truly can be used to mean anything at all. Words, however, are not meaningless, no matter how much "god" may try to argue that they are. When the time comes for God to "render to every man according to his deeds," I wonder what kind of reward will be in store for the author of "the little soul and the sun."
For the rest of this article and the four other articles included in this edition of the SCP Journal, please see SCP Journal 22:02, Fall 1998: Sweet Lies II.
About the Author:
John Moore, SCP Associate Editor and Manager of Operations, is a writer and computer consultant living in Oakland with his wife and two daughters. As a child, through age sixteen, John was raised in a neo-Christian cult. His family's deliverance from this group was effected, in part, by the work of SCP and other Christian "counter-cult" ministries He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J. Budziszewski, Conversations With Himself, in National Review, March 23, 1998
Peter Jones, Spirit Wars, Pagan Revival in Christian America (Mukileto, WA: Wine Press Publishing, 1997)
Kate Rose Jackson, Neale Donald Walsch takes Conversations to the next level, interview published on the Internet at http://speakeasy.org/newtimes/old/97-08-conversations.html
1 From Conversations with God, volume 2, as cited by Budziszewski, J., Conversations with Himself, National Review, March 23, 1998
2 Budziszewski, J., Conversations with Himself, National Review, March 23, 1998
4 Diabolically, the "Hitler went to heaven" theory is jumping from the Monistic camp into Theistic circles through a perversion of the doctrine of unconditional love, in the writings of such "christian" authors as Brennan Manning --see SCP Journal Sweet Lies, 21:4, 1998
5 The metaphysics of "god's" explanation as to the ultimate nature of human existence are straight out of 2nd Century Gnosticism, with liberal doses of Taoism, Bhuddism, and Hinduism thrown in for good measure. For an overview of the ancient Gnostic system, and its resurgence in our time, see Peter Jones' Spirit Wars.
6 This "first blessing" language and theology is very similar to the ideas coming from Matthew Fox.
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