Archive for the ‘Neale Donald Walsch’ Category

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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

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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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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

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Neale Donald Walsch — Conversations With Verbosity

March 7, 2013

Frank Zappa sang:

Do you know who you are?
You are what you is
You is what you am
A cow don’t make ham
You ain’t what you’re not
So see what you got
You are what you is
And that’s all it is

Neale Donald Walsch said:

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.

I don’t think I have to say too much more about this…..(*There are some more posts on the way – this is just a brief start.)

But for those who don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth from this post, I’ll add a bit more….

Zappa had something to say in the above quote and used straight forward language to say it. Mostly, you’ll notice, with good earthy Anglo-Saxon or Old English-derived words. And Walsch says next to nothing, despite using more words, longer words, and much more complicated language — largely derived you’ll notice, from Latin, the language of theology. Zappa is a little confronting, but good humored. Walsch is just bossy and uses the ubiquitous New Age tactic of “assertion-presented-as-fact”….. And also, Zappa is speaking in English; Walsch is not. He’s speaking some weird parallel language that uses English words, but with consistently distorted meanings.

Walsch has gathered terms from widely disparate fields, including, (in order of appearance), Jungian psychology, theology, self invented terminology, artificial intelligence theory, Catholicism, quantum physics, Buddhism/Hinduism, New Age Christianity, needlessly grandiose verbosity (Realm of the Physical), fake authority (“what has also been called” has only ever been so called by him!), more needlessly grandiose verbosity + self invented terminology + physics (Realm of the Relative), and another self invented term (Experiencing).

And what’s with all the capitals, you ask? I have no idea, but for some reason during the 1990s ALL the gurus were doing it. And then the fashionable ones stopped. (I remember one friend proudly insisting in about 2004 that her guru didn’t do that anymore.)

And what does it mean? Well, that you are “individuating” (not in the Jungian sense, but in the capital I sense); that you are God; that you are on planet Earth; and that you are “experiencing” (not in the English language sense, but in the capital E sense). It means absolutely nothing at all. Those are not really words but empty spaces. The consumer fills in the blanks with their own meanings, which they then ascribe to Neale Donald Walsch.

But surely there’s more to it than that?

Yes there is. I just wanted to get this out of the way first. People always say that Walsch has a “nice message”, without realizing that he doesn’t really have any message at all. It’s they who have the nice (if rather pointless) message! What Walsch does have though, is a full blown, highly exploitive scam, modeled on basically the same slick, slippery business model that, by some extraordinary coincidence, all the other New Age teachers seem to be running these days as well. And it’s not nice.

See the other posts in this series on NDW here……

Posted by Yakaru