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.
- “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