h1

Conversations With God: A Walsch in Sheep’s Clothing

August 4, 2013

Fans of Neale Donald Walsch are universally under the impression that his bestseller Conversations With God is about finding a God within. It’s not. That’s just the window dressing (along with the sign on the wall saying this is not a shop front and you are not to think of yourself as a customer).

In fact, Walsch is pulling a textbook New Age scam which uses all the classical manipulative techniques and exploitive financial structures that all the other New Age scams use.

New Age esoteric spirituality has popularized the old mystical idea that “God is in everyone”. 

As an idea, this one is eminently marketable. Which God? Choose it yourself, tailored to your own tastes and fears etc. (The New Age is unique in the business world, in that its customers actually supply the product themselves while paying someone else for the use of the brand name. And the term “God” is the ultimate one-size-fits-all.) 

But it has a built-in weakness: If you don’t need a priest to connect with God, then what the hell do you need Neale Donald Walsch for?

The video below demonstrates how Neale Donald Walsch gets around all this. He plays a crass authoritarian power game

… 

Walsch’s customers don’t seem to notice it, but standing before them is a man who, while condemning priests and organized religion, is in fact borrowing authority from “God” in a manner far more blatant than any priest would dare: he appears as God Himself before his audience. You can watch him subtly changing the tone of his voice, his posture and his language when “God” is supposedly talking through him. 

Walsch explains that the God who speaks through him is indeed the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. As God, Walsch is less humble and his statements suddenly take the form of imperatives. God clearly prefers a more formal style of discourse — “does not” instead of doesn’t, “will not” instead of won’t, etc. This “God” sounds rather stiff and stodgy, despite supposedly being Walsch’s most intimate friend. What’s more, He also seems to be very good at bossing people about and telling other people what’s best for them. One can get a whiff of hellfire and damnation too, in his demeanor. 

He cloaks it all in democratic “and-you-can-too” rhetoric, but you can’t. Your position in this hierarchy is on the receiving end. You are a consumer; a paying customer. 

In the video above Walsch uses the interviewer as a stand-in for a customer. It’s more an exercise in salesmanship than a theology lesson.  Walsch leads the interviewer through the story of his first encounter with the God-voice, as it moved first from outside his head to within it. He explains his doubts and how he overcame them, modeling the desired behavior for the customer. Straight out of a Multi-Level Marketing textbook. (They usually call it “Step, step, lead” if I remember correctly.) The interviewer is trying to simply give Walsch a platform for his ideas, but Walsch repeatedly engages him directly on first name terms. Maybe God has also completed one of those sales trainings for Amway or Herbalife.

A Judeo-Christian God With a Business Plan

Walsch is supported by the whole New Age culture which invites people to hear only what they want to hear, to skim over the parts that grate on them and ignore any red flags. (“Choose only that which resonates with you”; “criticism is negative”, etc.) 

They are led to believe that by listening to Walsch they can find their own God who will act in their own best interests. Instead, in a form of psychological colonization, Walsch’s customers are likely to find that their own “inner God” is merely a puppet for Walsch’s God. 

….. And Walsch’s “God” already has an entire business plan waiting for them. By an extraordinary coincidence — wonders will never cease — it also happens to be exactly the same the business plan that a whole bunch of other New Age teachers are running.

This pro-forma business plan is a slick formula with everything from organizational structures and “support networks” run by the customers themselves, to the setting up of dubious charities. This model looks a lot like it was designed by former Scientologist Werner Erhard and refined by former Scientologist Tony Robbins, and run in an almost identical fashion by, for example, former Scientologist James Arthur Ray.

 It involves:

  • “Free” seminars to trawl for the willing and to exclude any skeptics or potential trouble makers. (Skeptics: ever wonder why this stuff makes you so angry? It’s supposed to! By pissing us skeptics off so much, they polarize opinion and effectively socially isolate their followers from anyone who cares enough about the truth to dissent.)
  • Constant upselling using manipulative sales techniques to establish an exploitive relationship to customers. 
  • Hierarchy built from the top down where one can only get close to the master through the exchange of money or various types of favors. 
  • Establishment of an “inner circle” of a chosen few who pay extravagant amounts with the promise of close personal contact with the God-man. In Walsch’s case this group is called Humanity’s Team who pay Walsch thousands of dollars per year for personal contact.
  • Networking with other gurus who all cross-promote each other’s products and prop up each other’s credibility — obviously without regard for quality of product or safety of customers. 

What’s missing from all this? Of course, it’s….. 

  • Charity work…. I quote:

In Oneness, Humanity’s Team makes itself available to participate in local outreach programs around the world: Donating food, clothing, time to those in need

Battered Women’s Shelters,  Orphanages, Critically ill Children’s Programs,  Homeless Shelters,  Food Banks,  Charity Drives, Trash Clean Ups

Now I am not suggesting for a minute that such things are just a front for collecting money, laundering funds and evading taxes. I have absolutely no evidence of that. But I will say that there is only one thing on that list that I would trust these people with.

See also the earlier articles on Neale Donald Walsch on this blog..

Posted by Yakaru

Advertisements

16 comments

  1. I had had enough of Neale Donald Walsch this time after getting 2 minutes into the 28 minute video. Within that first two minutes he had come up with such revelations as (paraphrased):

    1. What is wrong is wrong to the extent that it is wrong.
    2. What is right is right.
    3. He knows things through his heart and his soul (sic). Someone should give him a heart transplant and see how much of what he knows changes ? I don´t think there is any evidence for a metaphysical entity such as a soul (and by which I mean something different to a spirit a la spiritual-mindedness)
    4. What was true before, is no longer true because thousands of years have passed and the information available has changed.

    Perhaps he means something like the earth is not flat any more and people cannot walk on water or rise from the dead, but it never was flat in the first place, and there is no reliable evidence of anyone walking on water or coming back from the dead after 3 days, comas maybe.

    I may look at the remaining 26 minutes for the marketing methods some other time. His hairstylist does a good job of making him look like the conventional image of God (sic, bestselling author, remember though, Bibles are often given away).

    I would like to agree with the proposition that a lot of charity work is more remunerative for the business interests behind it than the charities. Much of Australia´s overseas aid budget is spent on paying Australians.


  2. Thanks, Donald, that’s a good summing up!

    You did well to get two minutes into it. It’s divide and conquer — those who might be in the frame of mind to ask him some pointed questions have already bolted for the exit. I doubt it was consciously planned like that, but I’m sure these guys are aware of the phenomenon and use it to advantage.

    Maybe I’d add this to your list:

    5. God will tell you the same information as he told me, if you listen to my version of him long enough and often enough, though try as you might you’ll never be able to do the voice and the hair like I can.


  3. “You must find your inner God”, your inner lightness, you inner truth…” What the heck does that mean?

    I am a newbie in the skeptic world, after a traumatizing (to say the least) close encounter with a New Age man, which at least made me question my own beliefs and find many of its answers in skepticism. This is how I came across your blog and so far I am loving it! The hypocrisy and nonsensical concepts behind the New Age movement are mind-blowing. Not to mention dangerous and ultimately stupid. I admit I haven’t finished watching the video, but the first few minutes were enough to make my skin crawl. Walsh says he found God in his heart, so basically his conversations with God, are conversations with himself. And following this ‘logic’ he is therefore God, right? This belief that we all have Gods within us and that this God is whatever we want it to be is so empty of any real meaning that I can’t believe how so many people can’t stop for one minute to think of the absurdity of such concept.

    Also, if all the answers are within ourselves and our own perceptions, then why do all these New Age gurus keep on writing and selling new books, organizing and charging for seminars and retreats to share the wisdom of their own inner God who is not the same as other people’s? Is their God better? Wiser? Walsch feels entitled to criticize religion and preachers, yet he has written 14 (!!!!) books which he believes are his way to help other people to find their inner God? Really. Some of the many things I can’t stand in these New Age theories are stupidity and hypocrisy. And have I mentioned the nonsensical sentences that are deprived of any content?

    Thank you for exposing these gurus and their ideologies for what they really are.

    P.S. English is not my mother tongue, so my apologies in advance for the poor vocabulary and possible spelling/grammar mistakes


  4. Also, if all the answers are within ourselves and our own perceptions, then why do all these New Age gurus keep on writing and selling new books, organizing and charging for seminars and retreats to share the wisdom of their own inner God who is not the same as other people’s?

    There was a time when I was sympathetic to a sort of New Age spirituality, but even then, I’m pretty sure I’d ask the same question if they tried to sell me something. For me, that whole phase started with a desire to tear down false hierarchies and pointless rituals.

    Welcome aboard, Christine!


  5. Thanks for your comment Christine . I am very happy to get comments like that!

    “And have I mentioned the nonsensical sentences that are deprived of any content?”

    I used to be able to read all that stuff and really believe I knew what it meant. But really there is no meaning at all, and Walsch is just reading people bedtime stories to put them to feel like daddy is telling them everything is alright and put them to sleep.

    ….You are an Individuation of Deity, a singularization of The Singularity, an aspect of Divinity. You are the Localized Expression of the Universal Presence… You are God… You are in the Realm of the Physical — what has also been called the Realm of the Relative…which is where Experiencing occurs…..


    @Bronze Dog,
    Yeh, I sued to think the New Age was an alternative to organized religion. But it’s probably the most thoroughly organized religion in the world. They’re all pissing in each others’ pockets and taking it in turns to bilk the customers.


  6. Some more quotes from the video:

    NDW

    Literally hear a voiceless voice

    There hasn´t been an original idea in billions of years

    Life is a process through which life expresses itself through the process of life

    The other so-called mainline religions

    [I think he should have used the word “mainstream” but he slipped up because he was ad-libbing during the interview and his mouth got a bit ahead of his brain (or his heart ?). I have never heard anyone apart from NDW just now call the “so-called (sic) mainline (sic) religions” by that adjective.)

    Right and wrong is a kind of relative term

    And from EM – the non-perceptive interviewer/script prompter:

    When you talk about the way you received the information which you received….

    That could be EM´s way of disguising the circumstance that he (and everyone else) are unable to actually nail down what the information refered to is. I am curious to learn what EM was given an Emmy award for doing ?

    And from DT, to take a leaf from NDW´s prose composition manual:

    “I audibly tasted an imageless painting”.

    Which just goes to show that anyone can become their own guru. All I need now is a publisher and a publicity agent.


  7. “When you talk about the way you received the information which you received….”

    That’s the basic problem. New Agers think they are on the receiving end of the contents of their own brain.


  8. @ Bronze dog and Yakaru – Thank you for the warm welcome! I was also sympathetic with some of the New Age concepts in the past and it was a gradual process until I realized that I could not really grasp the meaning behind the psycho-babble often used by these gurus.

    @Donald Telfer – These sentences are just meant to give the false illusion of knowledge and depth. Just add some fancy nouns and adjectives together in a relatively complex grammatical structure and it’s done.

    The sad reality though, is that they use this type of linguistic techniques (including this soft tone of voice that Walsch uses) to manipulate and deceive people. And the worst part of it is that they often succeed.


  9. One of the things that got me out of that spiritual phase and into skepticism was reading online arguments between the two groups. The skeptics asked honest questions and wanted clear answers, so I felt sympathy for their frustration when the woos got increasingly thin-skinned, evasive, and vague in response. It didn’t help that a segment of them also did variations of the smug, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know” nonsense.


  10. I don´t think I learnt anything about spiritual matters by watching and listening to the NDW video. My attention was occasionally distracted by watching the people outside the window walking in the park, and wondering at the choice of venue for the interview – which appeared to be a church from the rows of pews it contained.

    Much of what NDW was saying came across to me as inanities.

    There used to be an oracle at Delphi, she also spouted inanities, one hypothesis is that she was high on gas emitted from a nearby fumarole / fissure.

    I find that when I propound some skeptical viewpoint eventually the discussion is terminated with a condescending “You wouldn´t understand”.

    I would not argue with that proposition, there are a lot of things I do not understand and I do not expect to understand them in my limited lifetime with my limited intelligence.

    Ironically I might still (now) have the spiritual focus in my life that I had 35 or 40 years ago, but it now has more to do with maths, physics, nature and life than it has to do with metaphysics and any idea of an afterlife or otherworldly existence.


  11. Hi there, SinE,

    I and one other person run a page called “I fucking hate pseudoscience” on FB. Just to let you know that I really like your blog (what a GREAT name!), and am likely to share some of your posts on it. IFHP has almost 40,000 likers, and attracts a LOT of debate, often from people who get very irate for no good reason. Please let me know if you’d like me to inform you when I post from your blog, so you can defend yourself if you’d like. Also, expect to pick up a few extra followers!

    All best,

    Emily-Rose


  12. FYI, I’ve scheduled a posting of your Walsch take-down on Nov. 1st.


  13. Thanks, I appreciate it. And what an excellent site! — https://www.facebook.com/hatepseudoscience

    I’ve added it to my virtually invisible blogroll (under site info, top right).

    Yeh, maybe you could drop in a comment if you post anything else from here…. I always jump at the chance to engage with irate New Agers. It’s weeks now since anyone’s called me a nazi.


  14. I read Mr. Walsh’s books to see what they were about. I am very suspicious of folks going against or adding to what the Bible says. I have a relationship as a Christian to God but I have never made up my own dialogue. Sorry. Mr Walsh is no Peter, Paul, Matthew or any other prophet. If you read the Bible it tells us that many will come claiming many works and wonders. BEWARE!! It is a Sign of the last days according to God’s Word, the Holy Bible. Thank you for letting me speak.


  15. Thank you for your comment, and your sincerity, Barbara.


  16. :)



First-time comments moderated to prevent spam

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: