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Note to Neale Donald Walsch & His Fans — “I” am not God

April 28, 2013

The thing that I call “I” is nothing at all. It doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion — a necessary illusion for social functioning and probably for normal mental functioning too. It gives continuity. But if you go looking for it, you won’t find it.

Some kind of consciousness obviously does exist, and there’s a door somewhere around here that leads inwards to a mind-blowing (at first) but utterly peaceful experience of simply being alive and aware…. but without knowing “who” is aware.

… 

I suspect that those who are reading this and saying “Huh?” (which may be everyone) have in fact experienced exactly what I’m talking about, and that I have described it so badly that it’s unrecognizable. And I expect that any decent Sufi or Zen practitioner would have already fallen of their seat laughing at me by now, which is why I avoid writing about anything like this.

But I had to start off like that in order to tell Neale Donald Walsch that he’s full of shit and wouldn’t know a mystical experience if it galloped around him whinnying in an ancient Aramaic dialect.

Some people, usually the most shallow and egotistical, have some tepid, ego-soaked mystical experience and immediately start thinking they’ve “got it”. Then they go running around telling everyone else that they’re “enlightened” and anyone who has a working definition of that word, and feels themselves socially inferior to this person, will immediately start licking their boots. Others start showing up to “check out if this person has got something“, and a number of them, who also feel socially inferior or sexually attracted, will stay. Soon a “community of seekers” develops and they all hang around reassuring each other that they have “changed so much” and that “life is better now that they have met ________.”

But Neale Donald Walsch is not one of these gurus.

I doubt that he has had any kind of insight at all into the simple semi-mystical fact of consciousness. I guess he must have opened the door long enough to say “Ah, it’s God in there” before quickly clamping it shut again — because looking a little further might have been painfully humbling enough to immunize him against the kind of chest-thumping I am God stuff that he carries on with. 

Mr Walsch, your “I” doesn’t exist, even though it has one of those important sounding triple barreled names, tops the bestseller lists and is known to thousands as the human face of the Judeo-Christian God.

And I’m not even going to bother suggesting that God doesn’t exist. Instead, for the purposes of this post, let us allow the standard pseudo-mystical definition of “God”, where the word refers to the whole universe, including that little bit that my eyes can’t see, (i.e. myself) which I usually forget to include in my idea of “the whole”.

Now, if you start telling people that there is something mysterious inside their consciousness and that this thing is God, some people will have an experience which is analogous to that. (Or, more likely, they will imagine themselves to have an experience which is analogous.) Something matches up. But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Surely we all know that our normal everyday waking consciousness is only a tiny fraction of the inner experiences our brains can provide, so it should be no big deal to have experiences a little outside the norm.

Every time you lift a little of that thin veil of normalcy, it doesn’t mean that you have immediately experienced god. That’s an ideological construct that insensitively closes the door on a whole inner world. Even more sadly, it makes such experiences seem foreign. And it belittles your own mysterious being — “That wasn’t me, that was God.” 

And, of course, that same sentence bloats your ego and makes you feel justified in lording it over others — “ That wasn’t me, that was God.”

Cutting up your consciousness like that — dividing yourself up into “little me” and “Big Me — God” (Walsch’s terms), will alienate you from vast areas of your own subjective world. It’s also psychologically unhealthy for everyday functioning.

In other words, it will ruin your connection to the mysterious and subjectively miraculous workings of your own consciousness; and it will also ruin your everyday life by scrambling your normal decision-making process — making you constantly ask yourself was that me doing that, or was it God?

Some advice: 

As soon as you say “that was God” you can be sure it wasn’t. And as soon as you even pose the question, you can be sure that you are already missing yet another chance to be aware of the mysterious inner ocean of consciousness that is lapping at your feet every single moment.

Ancient pond
Frog jumps in
Plop — the sound of water!

(Matsuo Bashō)

Here endeth the lesson.

Posted by Yakaru

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12 comments

  1. Just to be clear, the term “inner ocean of consciousness” is a metaphor for the feeling one can get by closing ones eyes and being aware of what one feels, independent of the imagined visual image of the body.

    Some people find all this stuff very familiar and easy; others find it dull and pointless; others get a brief taste of it and think they’re smarter than Einstein.***

    *** Footnote: This is not a metaphor. I know someone who currently believes they are smarter than Einstein. Don’t ask. Trust me — you don’t want to know.


  2. I’ve commented on this blog, sometimes partially off-subject, sometimes completely off-subject and it took me a long time to say this, sorry Yakaru.
    I understand these thoughts of yours, especially about possibly losing the full natural value of one’s personal life and perceptions by exchanging something of us/me/mine/whateva with ‘God’, or some Divine force/identity.
    I see ‘Creationism’ as a stage set, a ready-made background for our lives. All around us the world is supposedly back-drops, props and costume department material, not the natural world that has it’s own history of development into it’s current state. The divine being just brought it all into existance magically and its all ready for us to step onto the stage – bullshit.
    In a similar way, talk of ‘God’ speaking, acting, revealling etc. through us as we conduct our lives, for me it’s a cop-out that is demeaning to us and what we are.
    I’ve felt this about ‘Creationism’ for a long time (belittling of human-kind and all of nature) and now I understand the similar insult to us, the idea that a god sometimes speaks through us.

    Thanks for letting me vent.


  3. At some time along the way, I started viewing my life as a performance. This “consciousness” nearly certainly dates from the sociology course I had to study at university. At the same time, the lives of most other people I started to view as performances also. This perception on my part is reinforced by the frequency with which it seems to happen that as I get to know specific individuals better – mostly I discover they can behave (or speak) differently (hypocritically) in front of different audiences

    [Off topic comments redacted — Site Owner]


  4. @Woody,
    Some tangential stuff like that is fine with me — it’s still in the ball park, and if anyone wanted to take issue with it, they could do so in the context of the post. And this topic does have very broad implications.

    There are a few more posts coming on NDW, also looking at the way he builds up an exploitive relationship with his customers, partly by belittling them in relation to him, and blowing sugar up their arse in relation to the rest of the world — resulting in self-aggrandizement and danger to themselves.

    @Donald,
    Thanks for your thoughts, but that’s a bit too far off topic! I’ve also removed some personal details about third parties. I will probably remove large parts of the comment in the next day or two.

    In general, maybe you could gather your thoughts a bit more before writing and pick out the general points that address the topic. People should be able to respond to you without going off the topics raised in the blogpost. Personally, I also think it’s best to try and make just one main point per comment. And also please avoid introducing new issues. I deleted some sentences about anonymity on the Web, because I expect others would have liked to respond, and this just isn’t the right place for that.

    I will respond though, that I require an email from people for verification, and I insist that people stick to one alias, and it should be the same one for all sites similar to this one. Financial interests should also be openly declared. That’s the policy here.


  5. I do not know if Neale Donald Walsche was always known as Neale Donald Walsch. I read that Eckhardt Tolle was formerly Ulrich Tolle. Having such people, who sometimes adopt nom-de-plumes, stand up (or sit down) in front of audiences, microphones, lighting and cameras on stage (or in the centre) at seminars giving talks or responding to questions just has me considering the dramaturgical elements or theatricality of it. Actors and other entertainers also sometimes have stage names.

    Something similar happens in schoolrooms, but usually in schools we are not being vague (or not discussing vague metaphysical subjects) and there is less of a profit motive on the part of the teacher (usually paid all the same, but at a salary related to the cost of living).

    NDW and ET are free to say and write what they choose to. Their audiences (or target markets) can listen to and watch (and pay for) what they get.

    But I am fairly sure a lot of people are being taken for a ride.

    My understanding is that the greater part of the profits from book publishing and DVD sales etc ends up in the hands of the media barons and their shareholders.

    (Maybe this is off topic too, sorry, but to be on topic I would need to argue about god (sic) and everlasting souls (sic), and to for both concepts/ideas: “That does not compute”. I am intrigued by pondering what is going on in their minds. The same goes for the regular clergy in churches – except that they only get a living salary also.)


  6. Yakaru, the first two paragraphs of this post express something that I keep struggling to see clearly or express myself – it was very helpful to read. On the other hand, I don’t want to say, “therefore you should write more about this”: you’ll write as much as you want when you want, and I sense that there are dangers if one writes too much, filling in details, making a bit of a road map, and eventually being asked directions. But you point to the mystery of zen (for want of a less word-like word) better than most.

    I’m confused and ambivalent about zen, mysteries, “inner”, “ocean” etc., but that may be just a result of the ultimately inexpressible nature of consciousness. My concern is that the experience of being that you describe so transparently in those paragraphs so easily slips into intimations of “the Way”, or are characterised suggestively (and possibly wrongly) by metaphors such as “ocean”. Is the experience-of-being oceanic? Is the extention of the moment into all-moments, suggested by “ocean”, the same illusion that creates “I”? I don’t know. I doubt any human being knows. I’m not sure anyone even understands the question, because they don’t understand time, size or anything else that needs defining. Anyone who says “consciousness is like an ocean” is already pretending to be much smarter than Einstein.

    And always, it seems, these lovely bits of advice to sit and try to feel for the quietest, simplest form of our own consciousness end up with someone telling someone else to step off a pole, or use a different shape of rosary bead, or eat a different kind of meat. All the worst nonsense of religion stems from opening that “door” and then talking about it, or making a point of not talking about it.

    The only solution to that problem I can see – because it seems important to talk about, if only to point out the dangers of some teachings – is to talk about it as plainly as possible, clearly identifying our metaphors, clearly admitting our doubts and confusions, and aware of the dangers, and that’s why I love your blog – you do that so well. Thanks.


  7. @lettersquash,

    I am very happy to read that! Thanks…

    After I wrote that post I thought that that’s as far down that path as I’d ever want to go. I orient myself on the title of the blog for every post, and I don’t want to move from that focus at all. I just wanted to try and demonstrate that NDW is using a set of ideas which — true or false / useful or worthless — he hasn’t got a friggin clue about.

    I guess I do have a feeling for this stuff, and it pisses me off being constantly told by woos that I’m scared of their ideas. I’ve probably got better woo credentials than any of them!

    I also wanted to attempt to show that criticism of these kinds of ideas can be substantive, and that those who try to isolate themselves from criticism deserve to be mercilessly ridiculed. These are important skills for every spiritual seeker to cultivate, or have their credit account emptied or worse.

    @Donald,
    Yeh, the whole thing is entirely market driven. Oprah and Rupert Murdoch (HarperCollins) make their cash by making stars. As soon as someone has been on Oprah, Oprah wants them to stay on the bestseller lists just as much as they do. It’s all about marketing a personality, and the ideas they use is just because they have to say something. Witness the number of people who comment here who openly make up their own version of Louise Hay’s teachings and ascribe them to Louise Hay, and then feel assured that they must be right because Louise Hay said it. When I eventually get around to doing my final hatchet job on NDW his fans will show up here and do exactly the same thing!


  8. This is one of the saddest commentaries I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. You have totally misinterpreted Walsch’s message. You couldn’t be more wrong if your ass was on backwards.


  9. Uhuh.

    You forgot a few details there. Like, um, what did I get wrong?


  10. If there’s one thing that’s consistently annoying about a lot of woos, it’s that they don’t know how to do constructive criticism, as Yakaru posted about earlier. They give out the vaguest of generalities, and they typically only do it to show their tribal markings and pat themselves on the back for spitting venom at non-tribe members.

    On the rare occasions you do get detail-oriented ones, they’re bureaucratically obsessed with minute trivia while completely blind to the larger context. Or they think that proving their guru is only 99% as bad as we say qualifies as a complete exoneration.


  11. I think this is a misinformed interpretation of what Neale is proposing. I agree with what your saying to a large extent and so would Neale I think. Of course words, concepts and indeed the ego’s desire to elevate oneself is an obstacle for experiencing something of the unspoken mystery of the “oceans of consciousness” that arise within us.

    In other words Neale’s largely conceptual, words based spiritual offering is limited and he knows that. I am sure he would be the first person willing to admit it. He argues and I believe him that “God” (that ocean of inner consciousness, that mystery, that beyond ego) has appeared to him in this way at this time to offer something arguably to a lower state of consciousness, to the concept hungry consciousness, before or aside from that residing in pure awareness, beyond words, ideas or conceptions.

    Arguably however this “conversation with God” can offer us something. It can tempt those who know nothing of this grand mystery you talk about to explore it and it also gives us something of an awareness of our experience of ourself in as far as what I can see a very healthy, resourceful, God inspired way” (God for me representing something of the character of the best of human beings, our creative selves, beyond ego, a sort of “essential self” or one might argue “soul”.

    Conversations with God” fits miraculously with all great concept based spiritual teachings (including Zen teachings) and indeed what you are saying. You are not wrong (not that there is actually a wrong or a right nor that I would have a monopoly on it). I think what Neale is offering and what you are saying is the same thing to a large degree.

    I would however say do not be fooled by Neale’s larger than life personality. He is one wise man from what I can see with some beautiful insights into the metaphysical aspect of our human experience.

    I don’t think it’s arrogant to consider the idea that God could be speaking throug us. We just need to be aware of our own mind’s tendency to prevent us from enlightenment by assuming we know what “God” really means in what is arguably a limited, worldly perspective and yes I agree be aware of our ego’s desire to give names to things in what is arguably a simple or sentimental way of “keeping us safe” (an ego desire). I don’t think anything should be seen as gospel. The truth is we don’t know if Neale has had any divine inspiration or dialogue.

    But equally I think it is uninspired and cynical to assume all such spiritual teachers in the public eye are just out for money. Listen properly to what he has to say first and consider the concepts in relationship to what you see or sense to be true and then choose.


  12. Thanks for leaving such a well expressed and thoughtful comment.

    I’ll pick out a few points though….

    “I don’t think it’s arrogant to consider the idea that God could be speaking through us.”

    Maybe not, but to sell it as a product is arrogant and unethical.

    “The truth is we don’t know if Neale has had any divine inspiration or dialogue.”

    I am glad that you contradict NDW on that point.

    See the problem? He can claim that God is speaking through him and sell the words. Anyone who says “I don’t think so” is told “Well how can you know that he’s not God”? The smarter answer would be to immediately ask NDW “How do you know that is God?”

    If “God” really were speaking through people, surely the content itself would shine out without needing all this “shut up and listen, God is about to talk through me again”.

    I didn’t mention it in this post, but pay attention to the way NDW embeds sales techniques in his “God-talk”. If you’ve ever done an Amway or MLM sales training you’ll see it straight away. He presents the product, explains its advantages, anticipates objections and, models the behavior for the way he wants the customer to relate to the product.



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