by Marcia Montenegro
(This originally appeared in the November/December 1998 edition of the MCOI Journal, starting on page 10)
The title of the best-selling book Conversations with God means what it says: the author, Neale Donald Walsch, claims to have written down conversations held between him and a being he calls God. I first heard of this book in 1997 while discussing spiritual beliefs with a woman working in a New Age bookstore. She kept quoting from this book as though it was a sacred source of truth, finally urging me to read it. Since it seemed to have had such a strong influence on her worldview, I purchased and read it. It covers a wide range of topics, which cannot all be discussed here, so only the most striking points will be addressed.
In 1992, Walsch says he was unhappy and full of angry questions about why life seemed to be a failure, so he wrote a letter to God with his questions. As he finished writing the last question, Walsch claims the pen moved on its own and he found himself writing words as though taking dictation. Walsch claims he knew this was God dictating the responses, although he does not explain how he knew this. It is only natural, then, that we examine this book to see what God has to say and what kind of God he is. There is no obligation on the reader’s part to take Walsch’s word that this is God, especially since Walsch offers absolutely no evidence for it. He just asserts it as though the reader should accept it without question.
Words Are Not Truth
The very first point this God makes is that he communicates with everyone but not by words alone. In fact, his main form of communication is through feeling (3). Interestingly, God (for the sake of convenience, I will call Walsch’s God “God,” though I am not agreeing that this is the one true and living God of the universe) immediately attacks words:
“Words are really the least effective communicator . . . merely utterances: noises that stand for feelings, thoughts, experience . . . They are not Truth. They are not the real thing” (3, 4).
If this is true, then this statement by Walsch’s God, which is comprised of words, cannot be true, which would mean that maybe then words are truth after all. This statement defeats its own assertion.
Also, why is God using a book of words to communicate to us through Walsch? Why should we believe anything in this book if words are so useless and mere “noises?” If one wanted to be rigidly logical, one could say that this statement renders the book meaningless, and therefore, there is no reason to read it. God, who should be more clever than this, is using words to say words mean nothing. This is the first clue that this might not be the God of the Bible who is speaking.
In addition to this, God totally contradicts his attack on words later in the book, when the reader may have forgotten what God initially said about words. God explains the process of creation as operating through three levels: thought, word, and action. Words are described here as “thought expressed” which “sends forth creative energy into the universe” (74). This idea is repeated on page 164, where words are described as a vehicle for bringing thought into concrete reality. God also advises the author to re-program his thinking by:
“reading and re-reading this book. Over and over again, read it. Until you understand every passage” (120).
What happened to words being mere noises?
The purpose behind the attack on words so early in the book becomes apparent. God tells the author (and us) that we have placed too much importance on “the Word of God and so little on the experience” and that we should put experience over words (4). A few pages later, God blatantly states that the Bible is not an authoritative source (and neither are ministers, rabbis or priests) (8). Walsch, surprised by this, then asks God what should be considered an authoritative source. God responds,
“Listen to your feelings. Listen to your Highest Thoughts . . . Words are the least reliable purveyor of Truth” (8).
Once again, if words are such an unreliable “purveyor of Truth,” then why should we believe this statement, since it is expressed with words? This statement invalidates itself and the entire book.
God Does Not Care What We Do
Walsch’s God acknowledges himself as the creator of life, but then adds that he created us in his image so that we could be creators as well (13). God has no special will for us:
“. . . your will for you is God’s will for you . . . I have no preference in the matter . . . I do not care what you do . . .” (13).
God continues on, saying that we are not here to learn lessons but only “To remember, and re-create, Who You Are” (21, 28, 203). This came about because God, who originally existed all alone, longed “to know what it felt like to be so magnificent” and was not satisfied unless there was a reference point through which God could know his magnificence (22). This reference point had to be within God, because there was no outside reference point; God calls this the “Is Not Is,” sort of an opposite to “All That Is,” which is God. To use this reference point within, God divided “Itself” and “this” became “that,” thus enabling him to know himself “experientially” (23, 25). God’s purpose in creating us was
“for Me to know Myself as God . . . through you . . . My purpose for you is that you should know yourself as Me” (26, 65).
However, an infinite entity, the “All That Is,” cannot divide itself, for then it would no longer be infinite.
This explanation is really just another way to try to promote monism (all is one and one is all) and pantheism (all is God and God is all). According to this God, we are the same stuff as God, and this is what being made in the image of God means (26). God tells Walsch that in the act of dividing himself, God created relativity and polarity (24). Through this polarity, humans are able to conceive of opposites such as love and fear. Therefore, humans created mythologies around fear, such as “the rebellion of Satan” and our desire to personify fear as the devil (24-25). We need this polarity for our “gross relationships,” but in our “sublime relationships” there is no opposite, for “All Is One” (31). Basically, what is being said is that opposites are illusions, created for us to experience certain things we otherwise could not experience.
Quoting the Bible Out of Context
Many phrases and quotes from the Bible are mixed in with statements made by Walsch’s God, usually without any quotation marks and only once with any biblical reference. Speaking of Christ, God says that he was crucified to show man what man could do. God then says:
“And know that these things, and more, shall you also do. For have I not said, ye are gods?” (52).
Jesus’ statement to the Jews preparing to stone him in John 10:34 (“Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?”) is a rebuke because Jesus is quoting Psalm 82:6 where God has reprimanded the judges on earth who did not dispense God’s justice. The judges, called gods, were to be God’s representatives on earth, but they had become corrupt. After a stinging rebuke to these judges/gods in verses 2-5, God tells them that they were gods, i.e., God’s representatives, but
“you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler” (Psalm 82:7).
Neither Walsch nor his God is aware that this quote is an insult, not a compliment. This is another big clue that this is not the true God speaking to Walsch.
After reprimanding humanity for its onslaught against the ecosystem and for having wars, God tells us,
“I will do nothing for you that you will not do for your Self. That is the law and the prophets” (50).
This would come as a surprise to Jesus, who said, quoting God in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18,
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-39).
God’s words to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM THAT I AM,” are repeated frequently by Walsch’s God to signify supposedly that God is all that is and so are we. At one point, God follows this statement by saying, “YOU ARE THAT YOU ARE. You cannot not be,” indicating humanity’s supposed equality with God (200).
This phrase, “I am that I am,” is frequently used in New Age teachings. In New Age spirituality classes taken by this writer prior to salvation in Christ, this phrase was used to teach the idea that we are all one with God. We were also advised to meditate using this phrase as a mantra.
Perhaps the most outrageous misuse of the Bible is the recasting of the Ten Commandments into the Ten Commitments. These commitments include the idea that taking God’s name in vain means that we don’t understand the power of words; we are to honor the Mother/Father God and “all life forms;” and that coveting your neighbor’s spouse makes no sense because we know that “all others are your spouse.” God adds benevolently that these are ten freedoms, because he does not order us around. He just tells us that these commitments are “signs” indicating we have found God (96-97).
There are several more examples of biblical phrases and quotes taken out of context and misused, but space limitations prevent a discussion of them all.
If we all are one and we really are God, and if our separateness is a temporary illusion, then it follows that our bodies are part of the illusion, merely being temporary containers for our souls. Walsch promotes this classic New Age and Gnostic thinking.
According to this book, the soul knows that its purpose is “evolution,” and there is no trauma about leaving the body. As God says, “In many ways, the tragedy is being in the body” (82). The body is merely a “tool” of the soul (172), and the physical body is a lower vibration of the “ethereal body” (181- 182). As we reincarnate, our soul and ethereal (non-physical) body slow down their vibrations into the denser matter of a physical body being formed according to how the mind is creating it (181-182).
Why this denigration of the body? Believing that the material body is an illusion or a temporary tool allows one to minimize death. If we are really just a soul, then dying is merely shedding an illusion or a tool; we are not really leaving anything behind. In fact, being released from the body is spiritual freedom and a goal according to many New Age teachings. This idea can be used to support euthanasia, suicide and even murder, such as abortion. If release from the body is good and the soul is all that matters, then can killing really be bad?
Another result of this view is the debasing of the body. Contrary to the biblical promise of the physical resurrection of our bodies, Walsch’s God (in accordance with New Age principles) views the body as a “lower” vibration, a temporary form with less value than the non-material soul. This view could justify sexual perversion or self-mutilation, since there is no New Age teaching that man should honor God (or the Universe, the Oneness, or whomever) with the body. Indeed, in several places throughout the book, God inexplicably chides us for our taboos and restraints on sexuality, as though society were shy in this area!
The implications of this anti-body bias should not be underestimated.
Self Above All
If we really are God, then what could be more important than ourselves?
Talking about relationships, God says that each person should not worry about anyone else, “but only, only, only about Self” (124). There is only one purpose for relationships, and that is for us to “be and decide Who You Really Are” (122).
After the author has asked about family responsibilities versus his spiritual needs, God advises him that he has a right to his joy,
“children or no children; spouse or no spouse . . .
And if they aren’t joyful, and they get up and leave you, then release them with love to seek their joy.”
The brutal truth here is that seeking your joy is the priority, and if it results in a broken family, then so be it. It is justified by believing that both you and they will be happier apart, even if the price is destruction of the marriage and the family.
In case the point is missed, it is repeated more explicitly in other places, such as on page 132:
“God suggests — recommends — that you put yourself first.”
Advising the author to stop focusing on the other person in the relationship, God tells him,
“The most loving person is the person who is Self-centered” (124).
The self is always the emphasis and focus in a philosophy that teaches we all are part of God and are evolving back to that state. It can be no other way, because in this view we are equal to God. Naturally, a totally self-centered belief system will destroy relationships, or at least cause great pain in them, since relationships are based on mutual respect and responsibility.
Jesus the Sorcerer
Jesus is held out as a “Master” and example of one who understood laws of manipulating matter and energy (55). He also practiced the science of affirmations, which Walsch’s God explains is a way to manipulate energy so that you will bring into existence what you want. The best affirmation is one of gratitude, and God tells us that before each miracle, Jesus “thanked Me in advance for its deliverance” because he was practicing confidence in the results of his thinking (180).
God explains the principle of mastering energy this way:
“Now, whatever follows the word ‘I’ (which calls forth the Great I Am) tends to manifest in physical reality” (178).
Reality is created by the “Holy Trinity” of energies — thought, word and action (72-74; 164). This process brings the non-material thought into concrete reality (179).
The principle is actually a basis of sorcery and ritual magic, and these abilities of Jesus are described as the powers of a sorcerer. As sorcerer Donald Tyson says,
“the underlying premise of magical ritual is that if you represent a circumstance, or act out an event in your mind, it will come to pass in the world.” [1.) Donald Tyson, The Truth About Ritual Magic (St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1994), 29.]
In The Magician’s Companion, author Bill Whitcomb gives as one of the axioms of the magical worldview “the Law of Words (Symbols) of Power.” He states that
“There are words (symbols) that are able to change the inner and/or outer realities of those using/perceiving them.” 1Bill Whitcomb, The Magician’s Companion (St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1994), 15.
Walsch’s God says that whatever we think or say after the words “I am” will set in motion what we have thought or said. Since the words “I am” are “the strongest creative statement in the universe,” these words will call forth what we want.
“The universe responds to ‘I am’ as would a genie in a bottle.” 2Ibid., 93.
In fact, many of the magical axioms listed by Whitcomb line up nicely with the principles taught by Walsch’s God: we are separate in the perceived world by one in reality (axiom one); we create our own world (axiom two); truth is relative (axiom four); what works is true (axiom five); no one worldview is right (axiom six); we are all one (axiom seven); the microcosm is the macrocosm (axiom eight); like attracts like (axiom nine) (expressed by Walsch in the idea that we attract what we fear and must believe we are successful to be successful); every action is an energy exchange (axiom ten); duality exists to understand opposites (axiom twelve); words have power (axiom fifteen). 3Ibid., 12-15.
The fact that so many of these axioms of sorcery show up as teachings in Walsch’s book shows his God to be rather unoriginal. This is yet another clue that either this is not God talking, or it is a clever magician who hypnotized Walsch into thinking he was talking to God.
There is a sneering ridicule of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. God tells Walsch that this doctrine exists because people have been told they were made inherently unworthy by God himself (136). These comments conclude with heavy sarcasm. No scriptural references that humanity chooses to sin and rebel against God are mentioned (cf. John 3:18-20; Rom. 3:23). There is a final attack on Jesus, delivered with pure derision. God gives Walsch an anti-liquor lecture and Walsch disagrees, bringing up Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding as an endorsement of drinking wine. God replies,
“So who said Jesus was perfect?” (192).
This God cannot hide for long his deep hostility toward the Bible or Jesus Christ.
No Sin, No Evil, No Hell, No Pain
Walsch’s God is very emotional about the concept of sin, telling Walsch that the disobedience of Adam and Eve was not a sin but a “first blessing” because, in their disobedience, they made it possible for humanity to have a choice (56). God tells us that we “should thank them from the bottom of [our] hearts.”
The devil and hell do not exist (51, 115, 201). Pain “is a result of wrong thought” (37), and “all illness is first created in the mind” (188). Yet even to say pain comes from wrong thinking in not accurate since “there is no such thing as that which is wrong” (40).
It seems rather complicated that if there is no evil, we must pretend it exists in order to define good; even though all is one, we must have relativity to think we’re separate before we remember that we are really one with this God who divided himself into us. And God needs us to remember who we are since he is experiencing himself in us.
Taking away evil, sin and hell does not make life simpler. It only gives a new twist on reality that puts us at a disadvantage since that which we think is reality is not, we are not who we think we are, and though we experience evil, evil is not real. This contradicts one of the book’s major assertions — that experience is the indicator of truth. Yet, if we experience pain, evil or illness, we are to put experience aside having been told that these experiences do not reflect reality. So experience is reality except when the words of Walsch’s God say it isn’t!
No Judgment, or Is There?
Though this God constantly states there is no judgment, no right or wrong, and that he does not care what humanity does (8, 38-42, 51, 64, 79-109, 119-120, 135, 183, 208), there is judgment in this book. It is masked by other ideas.
According to this God, we only need to remember “Who We Are,” but there is no rush for we will all get there (51). We are to cease making value judgments (79). Yet, standards are held out before the reader in many ways. One way is through God’s constant reference to “the Masters,” whom he never defines. He states that these Masters have realized that the relative world is not reality, and they have chosen only love every single moment — even when being murdered (57). God goes on to tell Walsch that this is hard for him to understand “much less emulate.” But, God says, “this example and this lesson has been laid out so clearly for you . . . over and over . . .” suggesting that Walsch and, by implication, the reader are being a little slow in catching on. It is as though God is saying, “Come on people, get with it already! You are so far from the Masters!”
The Masters are used as examples again on page 129, where God claims that they always come up with the same answer, which is “always the highest choice.” Further chiding the reader, God states that the Master is predictable in this area while
“the student is completely unpredictable. One can tell how one is doing on the road to mastery by simply noticing how predictably one makes the highest choice . . .”
Of course, God does not tell us how to make the highest choice. Nonetheless, it is clear that we should be on this “road to mastery” making the highest choices, and we better get with it.
Similarly, there is reference to a “highest” thought on page 4, where God states that his thoughts, words and feelings are always our “Highest Thought . . . Clearest Word . . . Grandest Feeling.” The way to discern these, given on the next page, is that the “Highest Thought” always contains joy, the “Clearest Word” contains truth, and the “Grandest Feeling” is what we call love. Once again, this no-judgment, no value God has just given us values, and we know that we are lacking if we do not achieve the highest, clearest or grandest.
Walsch’s God is rather sloppy, however, with his terminology. Truth is not defined and neither is love. If these are the measuring sticks, then anyone’s subjective impression of joy, truth and love could define their highest thought, clearest word and grandest feeling. Could not one’s highest thought conceivably be to lie, to cheat, or to murder if the person derived joy from this? Nothing in this book refutes any of these as a highest thought, especially if one is basing their messages from God on feelings.
So, Who is This God?
Many of this book’s messages do line up consistently and completely with the messages of someone we know from Genesis chapter 3 — someone who questioned God’s Word, called God a liar, told Adam and Eve that they could be like God, and that they would not die. This someone was the serpent, also known as Satan. In fact, the attacks on Christ, on salvation by grace, on marriage and the family, on God’s Word, on the body, on absolute truth, on the reality of heaven, hell and the devil, and the promotion of sorcery and Gnostic philosophies are a perfect picture of what Satan would say and would want us to believe.
If truly dictated by a spiritual being, this book is a thinly veiled attempt by Satan to sound like God, misquoting Scripture and twisting everything around. Typical of Satan, the ideas are complicated, contradictory and open-ended, and the answers are often evasive. Preaching love and the “highest” choices and thoughts — this is an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) sweet-talking us into believing we are God and can do anything we want to do. However, Satan tips his hand too often; his hostility to Christ and his constant attacks on God’s Word give him away.
Conversations with God? Actually, this book is just the opposite.