FROM BOOKS TO FILM
Finally Conversations with God, the film, has reached Hong Kong. I’ve seen it and also heard its remarkably repetitive musical theme - music as mantra perhaps. The film is quite biographical. As such its conversations are almost more encounters with varieties of American ruthlessness towards the kind of unfortunate that Neale Walsch once was on the streets than conversations with whoever/whatever precisely is the talkative God of his best selling books. These records are now out in 37 languages and the film also shows how a certain type of book deal is done.
Walschs’ bad times are used to make him look chiefly a victim/saint full of publicly relevant feeling once he becomes famously influential. The reality might be a little different. Not only does the real life Walsch look, dare I suggest it, a bit more canny and streetwise than Henry Czerny’s sugary performance of him, but his beliefs suggest something a little more aggressive than the mild mannered talker of the film. His website recently defined his work this year as “A Civil Rights Campaign of the Soul against the Judgemental God”.
Walsch’s God is and isn’t new. The writer studied a variety of spiritual traditions from youth on but his, or his God’s, statements (for which one must go more to the books) offer a synthesis (pot pourri!) for the modern world of many religious thinkers and philosophers. But also their denial, like most obviously he’s a God of Love echoing Judaeo-Christian tradition yet also very much not the God of that tradition because he doesn’t want, judge or oppose anything. But judge is something even lovers do. “God” for Neale is however simply Pure Intelligence (which could signify an idealization of the cerebral/intellectual interests of the writer's Virgo sun sign) and Essential Energy.
Whatever within the nature of this conversing deity owes more to Walsch’s past influences (he was raised Catholic), to unconscious inventions or even the dictation of spirits (since I can’t allow God is involved for reasons that will be clear) is an open question albeit the author claims to be uniquely “inspired”. He doesn’t regard himself as channelling at all. Even so, what’s certain is that it’s rather contradictory to present an unwanting, therefore impassive, God as one so exceptionally keen to dialogue unless you’re prepared to identify your unconscious self and God more than Walsch seems to want to do. The film does moreover suggest in conclusion that we call upon this “God”, so he’s (sort of) separate and out there.
WHY SO POPULAR?
It’s notorious that Americans have little sense of history hence also religious history. Even so it’s quite ambitious (or arrogant) to imply that all the prophets and thinkers before oneself must have got it wrong about God either for yesterday's or today's world so that with at most a nod in the direction of past inspiration one can as good as start again.
Why don’t fans and devotees (since Walsch is now almost a cult figure) have a greater suspicion about what’s being offered? Basically I think this guru profits from the (un)philosophical postmodernism of the times which doesn’t want the big picture (“grand narratives”) of the major philosophies with their generalizations. Accordingly it will suffice if individual statements sound helpful, wise, comforting and relevant (and taken in isolation undoubtedly some are). They especially seem so for America where Walsch’s success began and which has a known yen for positive thought formulae taken on board very pragmatically and often regardless of the larger framework from which the statements may derive.
However… what there sometimes is of Walsch’s bigger picture does raise questions. Beyond reincarnation you need to believe (rather pantheistically and hinduistically) that everything and everyone is “one”. But are they really so, and especially as they are right now? It used to be that religions including Hinduism separated people out by initiation to obtain higher knowledge. In the world of Walsch's conversations there’s no initiation and everybody is one in God. But do you really believe you and God are “one” with murderers, torturers, paedophiles, etc. I suspect Walsch fans aren’t passionately asking themselves these questions. And they don’t need to because this God denies that evil like death really exists, (death and birth are the same thing). This means Walsch comfortably also denies any hell really exists - but again is that really true when (as indicated last article) people often experience negative N.D.E s that take them to such a zone?
While undeniably seers have on occasions been told to ‘write” the words of God as a single message usually communications from God are precisely words of God, speech and also reverberant declarations of limited length that the recipient may need time to absorb so that dialogue gets slowed or postponed. Frequent automatic writing such as Neale relies on and which allows the author more rapid reaction and dialogue has most affinity with modern spiritualism or channelling though Walsch doesn’t allow the comparison – as said he claims he’s “inspired”. Given the frequent contradictions that channelling is known to turn up tricksy spirits that esoteric writers link to the astral plane are often said to be responsible for it, while some Christians might go further and speak of demons and “doctrines of demons” scripturally warned against (1.Tim 4:1). The latter are what (if Walsch’s conversation phenomenon is more psychic/spiritual than just imaginative and unconscious) the author has some chance to be dealing with. Especially so since Walsch's God so emphatically keeps (in essence even if without specific source references) denying cardinal scriptural concepts and beliefs.
WHO HAS CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD and WHY?
In fairness it’s easy to be critical and deconstruct but what would a true conversation with God be like? It’s what perhaps everyone feels they occasionally want and need and at the folk/popular level of almost every faith tradition people attempt it and assume its possibility because it’s human to pray and ask questions. But is it right and possible under the rules of the main religious systems? Supposedly not if you’re a Buddhist since Buddhism is “atheistic”. Not if you’re a Muslim since then your duty is hearing and “submission” (which is what Islam means),not dialogue. Hinduism is more about devotion and mantras than conversation though the dialogue idea is known but more as a concession to the devotee's failure to realize the illusion of everything including his/her separate self.
So one is left with the dialogue of I-Thou communication of Judaeo-Christian tradition that Walsch is avoiding or indirectly opposing. In Judaism conversation exists but is somewhat restricted to prophets and the super observant who should cover their heads if male. It’s Christianity that through Jesus has democratized dialogue whose range, (but not style or content), effectively Walsch imitates without acknowledgement.
Even in Christianity dialogue has tended in recent centuries to be more Protestant than Catholic. In Catholicism saints and priests enjoy some privilege here. Traditionally believers speak more to Mary, saints and angels below God. Evangelicalism stresses “personal relation with Christ” and thus a familiarity in prayer but this relies on opening to relation through a degree of imagination and a Jesus who confirms contact or supplies “guidance” or deep intuition through scripture. Since however even at its most relevant scripture is not "modern" (no planes, no computers, no word for "homosexuality" etc) the scope of dialogue can be limited in some areas. This leaves us with direct experience charismatics who lay claim to the Spirit and (arguably) democratize experiences lost over time or hidden in monasteries and mysticism (Teresa of Avila seems very “charismatic”). Also instead of concentrating on God through Jesus or on just Jesus they may address and hear from all members of the Trinity.
In contrast to the automatic writing of Walsch, charismatics have automatic speech, (“speaking in tongues”). This is said to be incomprehensible unless translated by gifted associates but experience is that while they are "uttering", concepts, ideas, phrases cross the speaker’s mind so that usually he/she, even without any translating witnesses, approximately knows what’s being said by themselves and/or by God. This is therefore the nearest to “conversation with God” (short of the revelations of prophets who anyway more declare than dialogue). It’s also dialogue of an internal spirit with and through Holy Spirit, a major contrast to Walsch’s “soul” talk which is said to thrive (like wicca and magic rites) on use of emotion. Although charismatic experience appears emotional and may be introduced by surges of emotion as a shift in level of consciousness takes place the core experience of Spirit appears to be cool, not impersonal, but detached.
NEALE WALSCH AND LESE MAJESTE
Emotional/devotional/love relation to God is directed upon Jesus by almost any believer, not just charismatics. A more mental/”intellectual” relation attaches to the Spirit through whom the “mind” of God is known while the “will” or power of God is most known in relation to the Creator/Father. Some would maintain (and I myself only discovered it in the course of processing the variety of experiences recorded in Thunder Perfect Minds) that only certain subjects are appropriate or even allowed with one member of the Trinity rather than another. Perhaps one of the bigger shocks of my spiritual life came when I was told that certain issues (political and rights issues in this case) that I considered a proper subject for prayer must be referred to Jesus and not God the Father (whom I believed I was addressing) because there was something else we would discuss. When I had time to absorb this –the initial shock of the communication in its sheer force and clarity left me almost reeling – I wondered if in feeling terms the comparison shouldn't be with those who got their protocol wrong in Versailles and strayed into the apartments of Sa Majeste’s when they were meant to be directing towards Monsieur le Dauphin’s.
It’s not the only time I've felt I made some kind of faux pas. I once strayed towards mention of precisely Conversations with God. I shan’t mention it again in a hurry unless it's specifically mentioned to me. Doubtless with God there are better subjects for dialogue. I should say Neale Walsch belongs to those who have presumed, who have committed Lese Majeste. It’s a pity his readers aren’t more suspicious of the fact but it’s notorious that false prophets have big followings in the short term.
ASTROLOGICAL ADDENDA for NEALE WALSCH and HIS CONVERSATIONS
There is no birth time given for Walsch, born Sept 10th 1943 at Milwaukee, IL however…
For those who want a bit of astrology of Walsch, his success and fame are reflected in Jupiter (religion/philosophy/publishing issues) conjunct the connective nodes both on 15 Leo, a world point.
The writing and the automatic/spontaneous/unusual writing are very clearly given by Mercury (writing/ communication) fortunately trine Mars (energetic, driven writing) and Uranus (unusual innovative writing). One of the points of these conversations is to gain a “modern” vision.
I have been a bit of a voice crying in the astrological wilderness for the idea that Pluto is the true planetary symbol for God. However, given this assumption the notion of having or just wanting "Conversations with God" is clearly mapped by Mercury (conversations) in opportunity sextile to precisely Pluto.
Pluto rules Scorpio so we are not surprised that at the world premiere of Conversations, (27th Oct 06) all of Sun, Venus, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter were in the God sign of Scorpio but with a Saturn square to Mercury raising questions (Saturn is doubt) on what God we are talking about.
This fundamental problem is already in Walsch’s birth chart which shows a difficulty square to Neptune the mystical planet (which however receives an opportunity sextile from asteroid Lucifer). Neptune square Saturn can be depressing and is doubtless involved with Walsch’s life of want and beggary on the streets. I maintain that the temptation of Christ occurred when Saturn transited opposite his natal Neptune.
Due to lack of a birth time I am unable to know where the moon stands on the day and this could affect numbers of aspects important in assessing the work of persons relying on intuition and who are writers. (The Gauquelin statistics considered the position of the moon very important for writers). The moon is in either late Capricorn or early Aquarius.