Neale Donald Walsch has written a series of highly popular books, Conversations With God, written as if they were God’s words, told in a conversation with Walsch. The reason why Neale Donald Walsch’s work deserves consideration is because it is a popular example of an entire class, meme, consciousness, ideology, or approach to spiritual development that is quite popular and influential today. Other examples of the same general worldview are A Course in Miracles, The Seat of the Soul (Gary Zukav), books by Marianne Williamson, or Doreen Virtue.
Is the material in Conversations With God a dream yoga? We know of no reason to believe that its author, Neale Donald Walsch, or his audience, view it in those terms. However, that alone is not enough to disqualify it as a dream yoga. We have seen that the contributions of Freud and Jung are valuable for helping humans wake up out of sleep and dreamlike delusion as well as to grow up into more mature, healthy, and balanced developmental stages. Does Walsch’s material do the same?
He has compiled a summary of his philosophy/theology/metaphysics in “25 Core Messages: 1000 Words That Will Change the World.” Here is his synopsis, followed by some questions and comments.
Here, in 1,000 words, is all that the human race needs to know in order to live the life for which it has yearned and which, despite trying for thousands of years, it has yet to produce. Carry these messages to your world:
(1) We are all One. All things are One Thing. There is only One Thing, and all things are part of the One Thing There Is. This means that you are Divine. You are not your body, you are not your mind, and you are not your soul. You are the unique combination of all three, which comprises the Totality Of You. You are an individuation of Divinity; an expression of God on Earth.
(2) There’s enough. It is not necessary to compete for, much less fight over, your resources. All you have to do is share.
(3) There’s nothing you have to do. There is much you will do, but nothing you are required to do. God wants nothing, needs nothing, demands nothing, commands nothing.
(4) God talks to everyone, all the time. The question is not: To whom does God talk? The question is: Who listens?
(5) There are Three Basic Principles of Life: Functionality, Adaptability, and Sustainability
(6) There is no such thing as Right and Wrong, there is only What Works and What Does Not Work, given what it is you are trying to do.
(7) In the spiritual sense, there are no victims and no villains in the world, although in the human sense it appears that there surely are. Yet because you are Divine, nothing can happen against your will.
(8) No one does anything inappropriate, given their model of the world.
(9) There is no such place as hell, and eternal damnation does not exist.
(10) Death does not exist. What you call “death” is merely a process of Re-Identification.
(11) There is no such thing as Space and Time, there is only Here and Now.
(12) Love is all there is.
(13) You are the creator of your own reality, using the Three Tools of Creation: Thought, Word, and Action.
(14) Your life has nothing to do with you. It is about everyone whose life you touch, and how you touch it.
(15) The purpose of your life is to recreate yourself anew in the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever you held about Who You Are.
(16) The moment you declare anything, everything unlike it will come into the space. This is The Law of Opposites, producing a Contextual Field within which that which you wish to express may be experienced.
(17) There is no such thing as Absolute Truth. All truth is subjective. Within this framework there are five levels of truth telling: Tell your truth to yourself about yourself; Tell your truth to yourself about another; Tell your truth about yourself to another; Tell your truth about another to another; Tell your truth to everyone about everything.
(18) The human race lives within a precise set of illusions. The Ten Illusions of Humans are: Need Exists, Failure Exists, Disunity Exists, Insufficiency Exists, Requirement Exists, Judgment Exists, Condemnation Exists, Conditionality Exists, Superiority Exists, Ignorance Exists. These illusions are meant to serve humanity, but it must learn how to use them
(19) The Three Core Concepts of Holistic Living are Honesty, Awareness, and Responsibility. Live according to these precepts and self-anger will disappear from your life.
(20) Life functions within a Be-Do-Have paradigm. Most people have this backward,imagining that first one must “have” things in order to “do” things, thus to “be” what they wish to be. Reversing this process is the fastest way to experience mastery in living.
(21) There are Three Levels of Awareness: Hope, Faith, and Knowing. Spiritual mastery is about living from the third level.
(22) There are Five Fallacies about God that create crisis, violence, killing and war. First, the idea that God needs something. Second, the idea that God can fail to get what He needs. Third, the idea that God has separated you from Him because you have not given Him what He needs. Fourth, the idea that God still needs what He needs so badly that God now requires you, from your separated position, to give it to Him. Fifth, the idea that God will destroy you if you do not meet His requirements.
(23) There are also Five Fallacies About Life that likewise create crisis, violence, killing and war. First, the idea that human beings are separate from each other. Second, the idea that there is not enough of what human beings need to be happy. Third, the idea that in order to get the stuff of which there is not enough, human beings must compete with each other. Fourth, the idea that some human beings are better than other human beings. Fifth, the idea that it is appropriate for human beings to resolve severe differences created by all the other fallacies by killing each other.
(24) You think you are being terrorized by other people, but in truth you are being terrorized by your beliefs. Your experience of yourself and your world will shift dramatically if you adopt, collectively, the Five Steps to Peace
Permit yourself to acknowledge that some of your old beliefs about God and about Life are no longer working.
This Civil Rights Movement for the Soul is a spiritual activist project of Humanity’s Team, a global organization that Neale founded.”
Let us give Mr. Walsch credit for saying some important and inspirational things. His emphasis on the unity of humanity is important and inspiring. We all need to hear and remember that how we treat others is how we are treating those aspects of ourselves that they represent.
His emphasis on abundance as a reality to counteract scarcity and fear is very good and very important. Integral Deep Listening, the form of Dream Yoga found here, emphasizes abundance as the antidote to scarcity, and a fundamental characteristic of life.
Walsch’s emphasis on what works and doesn’t work instead of on right and wrong is very valuable, because it shifts emphasis from morality to functionality, to finding solutions to pressing personal, interpersonal, and geopolitical problems.
Functionality, adaptability, and sustainability are indeed important and basic principles that are good guidelines for development. Integral Deep Listening emphasizes the functionality of interviewing your emerging potentials in order to access and follow your inner compass. It emphasizes adaptability by teaching identification with perspectives that transcend and include your own as well as through testing the recommendations of those perspectives in your daily life. It emphasizes sustainability by encouraging growing up through advancement in levels of development in addition to waking up, through access of higher states.
Not blaming others or yourself is also an important emphasis Walsch teaches, since blaming doesn’t solve problems. When you do the dream yoga of Integral Deep Listening you access perspectives that are far more accepting of yourself than you are.
Moving people away from beliefs in hell, the limits of time and space, and toward love are all wonderful, helpful things that Walsh stresses.
Focusing on service to others is also important for a healthy, meaningful, fulfilling life. Integral Deep Listening does so by encouraging its students to help others wake up and grow up by teaching them how to interview their emerging potentials and apply their recommendations in order to find and follow their inner compass.
Walsch states that there is no absolute truth, which is refreshing and valuable. Integral Deep Listening recognizes that life’s palette contains all the colors of the rainbow and infinite shades of grey. Therefore, ambiguity, ambivalence, and confusion are indicators of tolerance, openness, acceptance, and growth into mid-personal questioning and doubt.
Walsh also points out basic human delusions, which is also valuable and important.
He defines basic fallacies people have about God and life, which is also very helpful.
Terrorism, as he points out, does indeed spring from delusional belief systems, not from others.
His Five Steps to Peace are Helpful.
With so many strengths and benefits, how can one possibly criticize such wonderful and inspirational ideas and sentiment? Isn’t doing so just being picky or missing the forest for the trees? Isn’t it just being too small-minded to grasp the Big Picture?
These are the sorts of dismissals and discounts we commonly use to keep ourselves from thinking things through, strategies we use to protect ourselves from having to question our comfortable beliefs. But questions don’t magically go away just because we ignore them, just like the world doesn’t go away when we cover our eyes. If there is an elephant in our living room, ignoring it won’t make it go away.
Here are some questions for Mr. Walsch. You, the reader, are also cordially invited to let me know what you think or what you think Mr. Walsch, or God, or both, intended by these comments:
Isn’t your style dogmatic? Is not a statement of absolute truth one that is taken on faith and belief rather than on thought and reason? Are these not statements of absolute truth, although you declare there is no absolute truth? If they are not, why not? Why are they presented in a dogmatic style that carries the authority of God’s wishes and beliefs?
What is it about your style of writing, similar to that of the declarations of the prophets and writers of holy scripture throughout the ages, that is so powerfully impelling to people? What is it about dogmatic statements that appeal to people? Are we so insecure that we have to be told what is true?Is it an intolerance of ambiguity? Is it a desire not to think for ourselves? Is it a desire to be parented, to remain a child in Eden?
Are the assumptions of God, divinity, soul, and spirit simply to be accepted and believed on faith? Is reason unnecessary regarding them? Is reason a sign of lack of faith or belief, or is it itself a form of faith and belief? What is the foundation of belief in the realities these concepts infer? Are they just true because well, they are? What makes them something other than metaphysical, that is, unprovable, truths? Does one have to give up belief in life after death or psychic phenomena, peace, love, and mystical experience when they question them? The experience of Buddhism implies otherwise.
Is it true that there is nothing that we have to do? What does this mean? No, we don’t have to grow, but if we want to grow, there are most certainly things we have to do, such as learn to talk and think. What sense does it make to say that there is nothing we have to do? I understand you are trying to eliminate compulsion, but in the process don’t you eliminate common sense? If not, why not?
Are the three basic principles of life functionality, adaptability, and sustainability? Are there more than these, like for instance, dialectic development or the balancing of hierarchy and heterarchy? Are we allowed to ask that, or are we just supposed take these things as theorems, postulates, and innate truths, supplied by God?
“Because you are Divine, nothing can happen against your will.” What does this mean? Isn’t it true that everyday things happen against our willl all the time? Are the things the government does expressions of our will? Does it act in support of our will? When we get sick, are we willing it? How about when people we love die? How about when a car crashes into ours? Did we will that?
“No one does anything inappropriate, given their model of the world.” Isn’t the implication here that there is no hierarchy of values, no objective yardstick to determine benefit, because everything everybody does is appropriate? Don’t we know quite clearly many things we do, like sneaking a huge chunk of chocolate, that isn’t appropriate? How about all those white lies we tell? Are they appropriate? How about your “false memory” of the story about your son Nicholas that was plagiarized? Was that appropriate, even if it was an honest mistake?
“There is no such thing as space and time.” Really? Isn’t the correct statement, “From some perspectives there is no such thing as space and time; from others both are very real and important, and to ignore them means certain death.” If this is what you “really” mean, why don’t you say so? You aren’t trying to confuse us? If not, then are you implying things that simply aren’t true?
“Love is all there is.” Wonderful! How about wisdom, inner peace, acceptance, confidence, and witnessing? Do they count as equals or are they merely varieties of love, secondary to them, and to be relegated to lesser importance? Is that true? Is that beneficial? Are there not many, many situations in life where we need one of the others, say confidence, instead of love, and if we use love we end up being manipulated, controlled, and misunderstood?
“Your life has nothing to do with you.” We understand that you are attempting to teach us to not take things personally, a noble and important truth. However, didn’t you just say that whatever we do is appropriate? Didn’t you just say that we are the creators of our own reality? If that is true, then don’t we have something to do with our reality? Does life have nothing to do with our own reality? Isn’t being responsible taking things personally? Isn’t being responsible saying not only that we have a lot to do with life, but that what we do makes a difference? Which is it? Are we responsible or not? Does our life have nothing to do with us or not?
“The moment you declare anything, everything unlike it will come into its space.” Is this true? Whenever I declare, “I’m hungry,” does everything unlike hunger come into my space? If we declare “I love you,” does that mean everything unlovable comes into our space?” Are we really so powerful that what we declare either comes into existence or its opposite does? Isn’t this grandiose? How is this not magical thinking?
“There is no such thing as Absolute Truth.” I’m confused. Please straighten me out. Haven’t you just made one pronouncement after another that is presented as an absolute truth? How are your statements not pronouncements of absolute truth? Aren’t your books, Conversations With God, written as if they were about statements made by God? Does that not give the impression and implication that these words, statements, and concepts are absolute truth? Based on this style, continued here in these principles, how is the statement, “There is no such thing as Absolute Truth.” not disingenuous? How can you present concepts as if they were from God and then say there is no Absolute Truth?
Aren’t your ten illusions actually ten delusions? Is the distinction trivial or is there a real difference between an illusion and a delusion? Why are there ten? Why not five or twelve?
You list three core concepts of holistic living. Why is respect not on the list? If “love is all there is,” why isn’t it on the list?
From this point of view, life is all about you: “The purpose of your life is to recreate yourself anew in the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever you held about Who You Are.” Is this true? Is life really all about YOU? Yes, we know you say elsewhere that life is about service to others. So which is it? Which statement is true? You just told us what the purpose of our life is: US. So if it is about others, how are you not contradicting yourself? If not, how are you not doing so?
Here are some general comments regarding what you seem to be doing, from the perspective of Integral Deep Listening dream yoga:
Your appeal seems to derive from creating a theology that appeals to perhaps as many as ninety percent of the “spiritual seekers” in the contemporary Western world. It appears to be a mixture of appeal to three different levels of development.
It is clearly early personal and “ mythic,” in that it is built around God, the divine, spirit, and soul, assumptions that point to entities that mean exactly what you want them to mean, no more, no less. These ideas are part of the monotheistic spiritual heritage of most people in the West who are spiritual seekers. As such, these concepts are comfortable and appeal to their scripted cultural roots. Your work is also mythic in that it consists of a series of “pronouncements,” which carry the weight of divine authority, and which we are to take on faith, because you had conversations with God. This implies that you are a tuned-in channel for God to make His will known to humanity.
Your teachings are also meant to appeal to people at mid-personal, rational levels of development by advocating important universal laws or concepts such as sustainability, adaptability, pragmatism, and human rights. Good for you!
Your teachings are also clearly appealing to people with late personal developmental traits, in that these concepts are hugely egalitarian, pluralistic, and heterarchical. They include everyone and everything; no one is better than anyone else; there is no judgment, and acceptance rules.
I wish Mr. Walsch and his followers would take some of his own good advice:
“Permit yourself to acknowledge that some of your old beliefs about God and about Life are no longer working.”
The entire dogmatic style of this writing, based on a mythic world-view and concepts, no longer works for people who have reached a mid-personal level of development or beyond. If you, the reader, want to wake up and grow up beyond the childhood of humanity, it is time to move beyond the internalization of other people’s definitions of truth, even if they claim to speak for God. Questioning, doubt, skepticism, and challenging authoritative statements are signs of waking up into the mid-personal level of development, which is a pre-requisite if you ever hope to evolve into the transpersonal or trans-rational.
Here are two other important bits of advice Walsch gives that would be helpful for he and his readers to take to heart:
“Explore the possibility that there is something you do not fully understand about God and about Life, the understanding of which would change everything.
“Announce that you are willing for new understandings of God and Life to now be brought forth, understandings that could produce a new way of life on this planet.”
These are very important, useful, and necessary piece of advice. How is it that Walsch and his followers are apparently too blind to follow them themselves?
Integral Deep Listening believes Walsch’s message, while having wonderful positive and inspirational elements, is fundamentally misleading and flawed in the following ways:
1) It relies on authoritative pronouncements rather than teaching you how to access and listen to your own inner compass. This keeps Walsch and his followers rooted in a pre-rational mythic world-view.
2) It encourages you to internalize these authoritative pronouncements, as parental injunctions, just as you did with those your parents told you when you were three. You then make them your own truth, confusing “conscience,” “intuition,” and social scripting with your own inner compass. This confuses internalized external sources of objectivity with authentic subjective sources of objectivity, found by interviewing your dream characters and the personifications of your life issues, treating both as wake-up calls that point you toward the priorities of your inner compass.
3) It doesn’t encourage the questioning of any of its own assumptions. They are true because they are Truth; you are just supposed to accept them. This is a belief and faith-based approach to life which is pre-rational; it is not trans-rational because it does not doubt, question, or think. It just believes.
4) If an approach does not encourage questioning, doubting, skepticism, ambiguity, and challenge, it is not yet rational, despite the fact that it promotes rational values, like adaptability, sustainability, and functionality. If it is not yet rational, it cannot be trans-rational, because trans-rationality transcends and includes rationality. These stages of development require reason and the ability to think; it is not optional. You can still know God without it; just ask any child who has had a near death experience. But there is a difference between waking up and growing up. We need both, and they are interdependent.
5) Information that is inspirational and helpful but is based on faith and belief, like most scripture, is pre-rational. It is necessary, but not sufficient, to grow into the transpersonal. To do so you must first traverse personal realms of development, and that means you have to learn how to question all your assumptions.
However, questioning is not an end in itself. You need a method to wake up, a spiritual discipline, or a yoga, designed to help you to wake up and grow up. You need a yoga that will awaken you out of the dream of your delusions and will align you with the priorities of your inner compass, not those of Neale Donald Walsch. He is a great guy, I am sure, with profound sayings, but he is not, nor will he ever be, your inner compass, and nor will any conceptualization of God, the divine, spirit, or soul. These are mere concepts that you have internalized; they are ways of talking about and pointing to life; they are not life.
Integral Deep Listening is not for everyone. It may not be for you. While there are many ways of accessing your inner compass, beware of those that claim to do so by putting you into trance, altered state of consciousness, or through following someone else’s vision of the truth. You have your own path. Your inner compass is not your intuition, your “still small voice,” the “divine within,” your “conscience,” or your “higher self.” Life speaks to you uniquely, of its priorities for you. It is only by accessing, listening to, and following them that you give to a world that desperately needs them, you own unique gifts.