Today’s Solutions: September 26, 2023

Author of the international bestseller Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch reflects upon God’s role in our lives and what we can do to make a better world.

Tijn Touber | March 2006 issue

One dark night back in 1992, Neale Donald Walsch sat down and wrote a letter full of self-pity to God. He never expected to get an answer. But he did get them—books full. His Conversations with God series has since been translated into 34 languages and has given millions around the world a fresh perspective on spirituality and religion. Walsch’s God is not an inaccessible, distant, wrathful being who looks down at us from heaven, but an intelligent, involved and humourous observer of life on Earth. Moreover, God has a plan to deliver humanity from its self-imposed suffering. And you can be a part of it.

Walsch clearly remembers that dark night when his conversations with God began. He was 49, burned out, unemployed. His wife had just left him. Things couldn’t get worse. Walsch couldn’t sleep and he thought: “What kind of God would tolerate so much suffering? What’s the point of all this? And why isn’t my life working?” He decided to write an angry letter to God. Walsch says, “To my surprise, when I had written the last of my bitter, unanswered questions and was just about to put my pen down, my hand continued to hang above the paper. Suddenly the pen started writing as if it were self-propelled. What appeared on the paper was: ‘Do you really want an answer to all these questions or are you just pouring out your heart?’ Before I knew it, I had started a dialogue.”

Four years later, the result of his nightly communications appeared in book form: Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue. The book was a bestseller in no time, thanks not only to God’s original answers but the way the conversation between God and Walsch unfolded. In an informal way, Walsch asked precisely those questions many people have been wanting answers to for ages. Moreover, his light, humourous writing style makes this heavy material palatable.

Walsch’s message is familiar to many because he speaks from experience and uses numerous events from his own life to make his point. For example, he says, “I was raised as a strict Catholic and one of the rules I learned was that I couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. Otherwise, the priest said, you would be sent to limbo in hell. Although no one new exactly what that was, it sounded serious. But one Good Friday I accidentally ate some meat. When I found out, I panicked. I ran home, but even my sweet, understanding mother couldn’t console me.”

Many years later a papal decree declared that eating meat on Fridays was no longer a sin. Walsch wonders, “What should God tell all those poor people who ate meat and are now in hell’s limbo?” He imitates God, looking down with a slightly embarrassed look and says with a heavy voice: “Sorry, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

It’s really quite something to claim that God is giving you direct answers to your questions. Walsch is thoroughly aware of that. In the introduction to his first book he writes, “My life would probably be much easier if I had kept all this quiet. But whatever inconveniences the book may cause me, such as being called a blasphemer, a fraud or hypocrite, or—perhaps worse—a holy man, it is not possible for me to stop the process now.”

Ten years after his first book was published, Walsch is taking stock. He has, indeed, been denounced and accused of sacrilege. But an overwhelming majority of the readers express deep gratitude. Walsch says, “Millions of people have read these books, and the reaction that I have received from them has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course, I am not naive enough to assume that there is no disagreement with what has been written here. Some people who have read the books disagree completely, and some disagree without even having read the material, based on what they have heard from others. But this is as it should be.”

With his beard, shoulder-length hair, refined features and the fatherly glint in his eye, Walsch looks a little like the God that Renaissance painters like Leonardo da Vinci tried to emulate. In any case, he in no way resembles the stressed-out man he was in 1992. His eyes no longer burn with anger. At most, there’s a hint of holy fire—a passion to convey God’s message to humanity and to give shape to a new spirituality on Earth.

But how can Walsch be so sure he’s actually talking to God? Walsch replies, “How can anyone be sure of anything? It is my felt experience. The information I have received includes statements, concepts and ideas that I have never heard anywhere else, never read anywhere else, never encountered in my life—and that ran against my own belief system at the time. So I am at least clear on one thing: This is not something that I ‘made up.’”

He raises an eyebrow: “What is the process of creation anyway? Where does anyone receive inspiration for anything? Who inspired Mozart? Michelangelo? Thomas Jefferson? I believe if these people could speak today, they would say that they were inspired by God. So then we get down to simple semantics. ‘Inspired’ by God or ‘conversing’ with God—what is the difference?”

It is this type of clear statement that has inspired millions of Walsch’s readers to rethink their relationships with God and creation. Walsch’s impact is so big because he makes skilful use of modern communication tools. The former radio reporter and amateur actor knows that it is not only the content of a message that is important, but the presentation.

Walsch doesn’t make any effort to convince people he’s right. In fact, he doesn’t consider it terribly relevant whether God is or is not speaking to him directly: “The only real issue with regard to this material is not ‘Where did it come from?’ but ‘Does it have any value?’ That’s the issue. That’s the question. Read the messages and see if they have any value to you.”

And Walsch doesn’t claim God only speaks through him. On the contrary, he continually emphasizes that God speaks to everyone all the time. “The question is not ‘To whom does God speak?’ The question is ‘Who listens?’”

Walsch admits that learning to listen was none too easy, particularly in the early days when God first revealed himself to Walsch. “Sometimes months went by before there were two paragraphs on paper. I only understood later that it wasn’t because of God, but me.”

Like many of his readers, Walsch has greatly changed as a result of delving into probing lessons, such as “There are two basic emotions that rule the universe—fear and love—and every person can always choose.” Or that “God doesn’t judge you; at most you do it yourself.” Or “Life is not a school of learning; it’s a creative process.” Of course these insights are not all new. Past messengers presented similar words of wisdom in the name of God. Which is precisely the message from Walsch’s God. In Conversations, God says: “I have given you so many signs, but you don’t listen. This book is one more sign.”

Could this really be the same God who once revealed himself to Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and others? “Yes,” he responds. “I believe that God tells the same thing to each and every messenger—which is why so many of the major underpinnings of human theology are identical from religion to religion. I believe that the difference in opinion that we see from messenger to messenger with regard to God can be attributed to the fact that each messenger brings the wisdom of God through the filter of the culture, traditions, background and understandings of their time.”

Does this mean we can add Neale Donald Walsch to the select group of prophets who have brought a direct message to humanity from God? Walsch believes that the idea that there are only a handful of exclusive messengers is outdated: “There are no ‘exclusive messengers.’ All the doctrines of all the religions which claim that their messenger is the ‘exclusive’ messenger of God are in error. They are mistaken. You are a messenger of God. Every one of you. Your life, lived, is your message. If you don’t like the message you are sending, then send another one. Change your mind about yourself, change your mind about life, change your mind about God, and you will change your world.

“The whole point of the Conversations with God books is that all of us are having a conversation with God all of the time; we just don’t know it. We have been culturalized away from acknowledging God as the source of our inspirations. So we call them ‘serendipity,’ or ‘women’s intuition,’ or ‘a stroke of genius,’ or ‘coincidence’ or whatever else we can get away with in a society which increasingly removes itself from any mention of a direct connection with God.”

Walsch explains that we’ve forgotten how to listen to God: “The major religions say something like this: God spoke a couple of thousand years ago to his Son, the Prophet, Krishna. Since then He has been silent.

“The irony of all this is that it is often religions themselves which tell us that we do not and cannot have a direct connection with God. They must tell us this, or they cannot in any way attract or command our allegiance. We must believe that these religions are our doorway to God. Otherwise we would abandon them. Given the way many of them are acting, we are ready to abandon them anyway.”

Walsch believes that most of our problems are in fact due to religious ideas: “Our religious systems have led to death and violence, social injustice and widespread poverty as well as an increasing gap between rich and poor. They have created ruthless competition, caused children to die of starvation, women to be mistreated and raped and have oppressed societies. Religion has brought us more grief than happiness, more war than peace and more hate than love for our fellow man than we’d like to admit.

“Religions,” he continues, “have taught us that there is an absolute system of separation and superiority whereby God is the highest authority and the lowest echelons are populated by those who don’t want to accept God as God wishes. Moreover, religions have convinced us that there is a whole system of revenge that makes quick work of those who refuse to accept God’s will when it comes to these issues. Nearly all institutionalized religions based on exclusion speak repeatedly of an angry, jealous and harsh God who uses violence and death, and who forgives the use of violence and death as a means of solving religious conflicts. If you think this is tough language, simply consult the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon or the texts of other major religions. According to the Bible alone, over a million people were destroyed by the hand of God or on His authority.”

Walsch sees his sharp criticism of religions as an attempt to help find real solutions to the planet’s problems: “As long as we disagree about the reasons behind human dysfunction, all our efforts to put an end to it will lead to nothing. This is also the reason why we continue to try and solve our problems along political, economic or even military lines. But this is not a solution because the problems facing our world are of a spiritual nature. They have to do with what we believe.”

The image humans have of God is particularly ripe for an overhaul. “The image that has been formed and developed throughout the ages by many religious institutions has affected us deeply. What if this image is wrong? What if it is a faulty version of a faulty vision? What I want to ask the institutionalized religions is whether they would be willing to thoroughly examine their doctrines to see if a few of them might not be urging us towards war, not peace.”

That question is not as radical as it seems. It goes without saying that in every other area of society, people test and substantiate their assertions—especially when they label these assertions “reality,” Walsch points out, “Imagine that scientists thought along the same lines as religious leaders and one day they declared, ‘OK people, we have all the information. The final words have been spoken. Starting now we won’t think for ourselves anymore, we won’t ask any complicated questions and we’ll rely on just one source.’ We would consider that absurd! It’s high time we reassessed our primary assumptions about ourselves, God and life.”

Of all the concepts about God, Walsch believes one in particular is the most damaging: “One of the most serious misconceptions is the idea that God is inaccessible, that God is separated from us. This divisive way of thinking has alienated us from ourselves and from creation. It has also led to a divisive economy and divisive politics, a divisive sociology and divisive religion. But we are all One, there is no separation between us and God, between us and life or between us and each other. This is a freeing, rather than a constricting, theology, freeing humanity from the oppression of its beliefs in a righteous, jealous, angry, demanding, exclusive, vindictive, vengeful and violent God, and offering people the freedom to follow their natural impulse to seek and experience the Divine.”

According to Walsch, the transition to this inclusive way of thinking will be the most difficult humanity has faced. “We’ve become accustomed to allowing God to do our dirty work and doing the most horrible things in His name: ‘God wants me to drop bombs on Baghdad, God wants me to bring down the Twin Towers.’ But imagine, for a moment, that God doesn’t want anything at all from us?”

He lets the question hang in the air for a moment, then adds: “My message is the message of a God who wants and requires nothing from the human race, but whose purpose is simply and gloriously to empower humanity to recreate itself anew in each moment in the next grandest version of the greatest vision we ever held about who we are.”

If God wants nothing from us, then the responsibility for happiness and sadness, poverty and wealth, pollution or sustainability—in short: heaven and hell—rests firmly where it belongs: with us. If God wants nothing from us, then it really is up to us to take on those responsibilities. How? “It is high time we reinvented ourselves,” Walsch counsels, “ to no longer see God as a separate entity but as an all-embracing reality.”
Neale Donald Walsch is optimistic that this can take place: “Shift happens.”

Neale Donald Walsch has written the following books, among others: Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue (Penguin Group, 1996), Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book 2 (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 1997) and Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book 3 (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 1998).

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