Neale Donald Walsch’s “Conversations With God” — Some Historical Background

April 21, 2013

All this “You are God” stuff has a long history and includes a fairly profound mystical tradition as well as a rather non-profound political history. The reasons for this strikingly checkered past should swiftly become obvious to anyone who stops and thinks about it. 

The “God” refers to the ultimate in alpha males, and the “you” is the ultimate in biblical humbleness and worminess. The conjunction of the two might be the ultimate in democratic humility, or the ultimate in despotic hubris….. or a mix of the two with a lucrative business plan attached!

The idea was first written down in the Upanishads, a quite impressive old document which included the often quoted idea that one should “Be still and know that I am God”. But instead of “God”, of course, it’s “Brahma”. Sadly, this should remind us that it’s only speaking to members of the Brahman caste, and not to any Untouchable.

Striking isn’t it, how the most vicious and inhuman hierarchy ever devised, the Hindu caste system, nestles so easily in next to the apparently democratic idea that God is in everyone. Note too, please, the built-in Orwellian disclaimer — All people are God, but some people are more God than others.

The idea resurfaces in the Bible. Saul of Tarsus (who was influenced by the Greeks, who were themselves influenced by Hindu philosophy), tells the Galatians that he now has a “Jesus” where his “self” used to be. Again, while this all sounds very humble, it also forms the basis of divine papal authority, and onward to centuries of hideous torture and a shocking array of crimes and abuses.

Again, note the ease with which a humble idea of personal submission rests so easily with ideas of hierarchy and unquestionable authority.

A more curious and possibly more honorable appearance of the idea occurred in Baghdad in the 10th Century. The Sufi mystic Mansur Al-Hallaj waded into the philosophically dangerous waters of deciding that if God is in everything, then he can also be found by anyone who knows how to look, regardless of religion or social status.

This is a genuinely brave and (I find) appealing idea, which is an invitation to unhindered exploration of the natural world and inner contemplation. For a sincere seeker and a genuinely devout believer, this is a perfectly reasonable conclusion, or even an unavoidable imperative. The fact that religious fundamentalists have always opposed this idea suggests they are themselves not in fact believers, and are purely interested in political power — the very thing which this idea threatens.

Likewise, the fundies didn’t like Mansur’s insistence on sharing his mysticism with the masses, and they had him executed. According to accounts, Mansur went bravely to his death, repeating that his “self” (i.e. his ego) had already been destroyed long before the ax was to fall. If the accounts are true, it seems he genuinely believed that, as he put it, “There is nothing wrapped in this turban except God.”

This is the tradition that Neale Donald Walsch claims to be a part of. He claims both the divine authority of Yahweh as instilled in Saul, as well as the humbleness and courage in the face of oppression, of Mansur. Subsequent posts will consider how Walsch navigates this philosophical minefield, how he measures up to the standards he claims to represent, and how he deals with the built-in temptations of hierarchy, hubris and profit. 

(I know, I’ve been blabbing about doing this for ages, but there is a surprising amount of preliminary stuff to clear out of the way before one can get a clear approach to this Walsch character!)

Posted by Yakaru


  1. Again, note the ease with which a humble idea of personal submission rests so easily with ideas of hierarchy and unquestionable authority.

    That’s one thing that always irritates me with various types of fundies. They “borrow” the infallibility of their idols to browbeat anyone who dares question them, but they’re oh-so-humble because they’re perfect at detecting the perfection of their idol so they know what to submit to. Unsurprisingly, the idol hates exactly the same things they do.

    Sometimes it gets really bad, and they declare “I don’t know” to be an arrogant statement.

  2. Yes, it’s the perfect set up for a bait and switch, and they switch according to the needs of the situation. It will eventually become clearer, I think, why I’m leading in to writing about NDW in this manner – he goes through pretty much the whole catalog of tricks one can pull given this starting point. He claims humbleness, while casting a carefully cultivated authoritative shadow over the scene, and bringing in a whiff of fear of persecution, to add to the self-aggrandizement and the increase the fear-based dependence on him.

    And yes, it is infuriating isn’t it. And many take “I don’t know” as an invitation to say “Well I do, blah blah blah etc.”

  3. I was watching some youtube videos of that strange cryptozoan, Eckhart Tolle, amusing myself posting comments for the uploader to disapprove, when I found http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zTgZctIeXI – somebody really should create an award for newage sycophantic hypocrisy, if they haven’t already. I particularly enjoyed the frank confession that he doesn’t care about anyone in the audience at all, which they apparently find amusing, and probably endearing. This after managing to say that he understands “It”, like Eckhart does, but he doesn’t live it (look at that face!), and then he says he does live it, but not the way his “master” does, not all the time. He is definitely NOT (he says so, so he can’t be) “just pumping sunshine in your ears” (smoke and ass come to mind, actually). Then it’s ET’s turn to massage everyone’s ego and preach mindlessness. The talk ends with NDW apparently saying God wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk to the great Eckhart Tolle about Neale Donald Walch.

  4. Yeh, look, thanks a million for mentioning Eckhart fucking goddam Tolle on my stupid fucking website. I’d managed to block this creep out of my consciousness here until now, and now that you’ve mentioned him I’ll start getting google hits for “Eckhart fucking goddam Tolle” and then feel obliged to write something about this ketamine overdosed fool.

    His guru was Barry Long, an Australian “spiritual master” who taught exactly the same stuff only much more succinctly. Barry Long stole it from some eastern gurus who he then trashed as being unsuitable for the “western mind”… And the fact that his wife left him and ran off with a Rajneeshi didn’t have anything to do with his sudden negative attitude to “eastern” masters!

    Anbd to be fair to B Long, I don’t think he would have tolerated the kind of pathetic sycophancy that makes Tolle smile patronizingly. He was I think he was sincerely serious and boring, unlike Tolle.

  5. Sorry, I’m a bugger for derailing threads. I’ll limit my comments to NDW from now on – well at least until you write about EFGT (result!). Ketamine? Bloody hell, pixies should never mess with horse tranquilizers.

  6. Just joshing, lettersquash, in case that’s not clear to all!

    And that was well within the bounds of relevance – NDW was in the video and playing acting out exactly the kind of bullshit covered in the post…

    I guess I should look a bit more at ET. He’s one of these simpering “harmless” nice guys who probably doesn’t pull the evil exploitive shit that NDW gets away with, and whose teachings don’t seem on the face of it to be as inherently dangerous as the LOA etc, but you don’t get on Oprah, or get to mix with all those New Age gangsters by being a nice guy…. So I must have missed something.

    This thread is now officially open for dirt on Eckhart Tolle. (I know he has a harem and has caused plenty of relationship break ups, but that’s par for the course in this business.)

  7. Hell yeah I knew you were joshing mate, but probably worth pointing out to all and sundry. Either that or you’d finally lost your mind. Nobody sane writes “thanks a million for mentioning Eckhart fucking goddam Tolle on my stupid fucking website” and isn’t joshing (you’re welcome, by the way). Actually, I’ve googled that phrase, and your stupid fucking website were nowhere to be seen. The results are pretty funny though. ET must be up to something – it doesn’t matter what I watch on youtube, he pops up in the suggestion list, which is how I started watching.

  8. Google just asked me if I meant goddamn instead of goddam, and I didn’t figure anywhere in my search either. I guess I should be happy, but I merely feel strangely unfulfilled.

    Yeh, they all cross-promote each other, and everyone wants to cross-promote with Ecky because he’s so nice and non-threatening, and above all he’s been on Oprah. They’ve got such a vast web of connections that people can be caught in it for ages without realizing it’s the same net, and the reason they keep seeing the same names crop up over and over is not a divine coincidence, but merely a sign that they’ve been sucked in to a coordinated strategy for selling them invisible products.

    He’s also got even worse dress sense than Barry Long – something I thought I’d never see, outside of certain parts of London.

  9. Rather than call it cross-promotion, describe it as channelling – it sounds more cosmic.

    But what about the business model ? How do I tap in to, or channel with, the rivers of gold ?

    How many trees does it take to print 5 million books ? Why not publish the books only/mainly in digital editions ?

  10. How do I tap in to, or channel with, the rivers of gold ?

    You have to attune yourself to the Mountain Heart in order to navigate the Great Material Continuum.

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