FRIENDSHIP WITH A MARSHMALLOW GOD: LOOKING AT FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD BY NEALE DONALD WALSCH

By Marcia Montenegro

(First published in Midwest Christian Outreach Journal)

Continuing his string of bestsellers after Conversations with God, book one, two, and three, author Neale Donald Walsch has co-authored another book with "God," Friendship with God. As stated in a previous article for MCO Journal on Conversations with God, book one, there is no reason to assume that Walsch is actually transmitting messages from God, although this is what he believes. Desiring friendship with God must take a back seat to examining what this God is saying. If this is not really God, then all the advice given by Walsch and his God should be disregarded since the source would be a liar.

In spite of the verbosity of this book, no new ideas are revealed. It all boils down to the same old story: We are all one, we are one with God, truth is based on your feelings, thinking must be put aside to experience spiritual truth, there is no right or wrong, and there are many ways to God.

Since it is not clear that this is the true God, Walsch's God will be referred to as G throughout the article to avoid confusion and for the sake of brevity. References to the book are listed by page number in brackets.

Walsch's fear of God

Walsch goes into detail about his background and various experiences as to how he applied lessons learned from people or circumstances. We gain insight on why Walsch has been so desperately seeking a kinder, gentler God when we learn that his Catholic background, rightly or wrongly, taught him to fear God. He recounts several episodes from his childhood, including one in which his aunt tells him that his mother will be punished by God for "trafficking with the devil" by reading Tarot cards [7]. Walsch was only six at the time. Fear was reinforced at a Catholic school, where Walsch and the other students had it drummed into them to go to Mass, say the rosary, go to confession weekly, take Holy Communion, etc. in order to avoid God's anger. Walsch then attacks the rules that he says dominate religions around the world. Though he does not name names, he makes reference to other branches of Christianity and to Islam.

Walsch assumes his experiences to be true for everyone and apparently has never questioned this. His misunderstanding of Christianity and apparent ignorance of the gospel of grace lead him into a rejection of the Judeo-Christian God and set him up as a perfect target for what seems to be new spiritual freedom offered by an entity claiming to be God.

We are all One

That we are all one and that we are one with God is the central, recurring theme of this book. Walsch asserts it even before his friend G starts talking, and it is repeated often. Since we are one with God, we are divine, and G tells Walsch, in one of his little ditties, " Your Will and Mine, is that will which is Divine," [224]. This impresses Walsch, as does much of what G tells him, although many of the sayings are shallow or are mere repetitions of previous New Age and Eastern clichés.

Walsch has come to the great understanding that life is an illusion, and we are creating the reality around us. This idea, originally from Hindu beliefs, was adapted into New Thought teachings found in Christian Science and the Unity School of Christianity years ago, as well as becoming part of New Age thinking. However, Walsch is just now experiencing what he calls "the Ultimate Reality of Oneness, with You and with everything and everyone," [225-6].

Not surprisingly, we learn that as part of Walsch's spiritual journey before writing the G books, he spent time with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, whom he claims taught him about a God who would never judge; then he explored several religions, including Buddhism, finally becoming an enthusiastic follower of a woman named Terry Cole-Whittaker, who was a minister with The United Church of Religious Science, another New Thought church. He was on staff at her church for awhile while he absorbed her teachings on "a God of unconditional love" and on the "power of God" which resides "within all of us. This included the power to create our own reality and to determine our own experience," [284-5].

Feeling separate as an individual is an illusion, an illusion we maintain with our "drama" so that we can "play out....all the various versions of Who You Are," according to G [288, 290]. It is up to us whether to experience the illusion or live outside it and experience Ultimate Reality. And how do we do that, asks Walsch. G replies: "Be still, and know that I am God. I mean that literally, Be still. That is how you will know that I am God, and that I am always with you. That is how you will know that you are One with Me. That is how you will meet the Creator inside of you," [291].

Later, when Walsch is told that to apply this message, he must "be it," not "do it," G. says, "Is it not written: And the Word was made flesh?" [294]. Walsch asks how he can know that for sure, and G tells him that "You are, quite literally, the Word of God, made flesh....Speak the word, live the word, be the word. In a word, be God," [395]. Walsch, trying to understand this, asks if he is supposed to be God, and G tells him that he is not supposed to be anyone, he's just telling Walsch "Who You Really Are," [395].

Once Walsch can really live this truth out, and be one with All That Is, then others may call you "God, or the Son of God, or the Buddha, the Enlightened One, the Master, the Holy One--or, even, the Savior," because Walsch will be saving everyone from forgetting their Oneness [409] since we are all "The Alpha and the Omega," [249].

And since one's self is God, loving one's self is loving God. "Love your Self, for God's sake," G tells Walsch [344].

In fact, the purpose of life according to G., is "to create your Self anew, in the next grandest version of the greatest vision ever you held about Who You Are," [174]. This phrase is repeated ad nauseam throughout the book.

The New Gospel

Rather early the book, on page 50, G tells Walsch that there is no Judgment Day and no condemnation or punishment except what we inflict on ourselves. This is another major theme which is repeated and illustrated over and over. At one point, G tells Walsch that the idea of a God who does not punish is considered heretical, and that he (Walsch) might have to "abandon the church in order to know God. Without a doubt, you will have to at least abandon some of the church's teachings," [67]. There is no reference to other religions. G is unusually preoccupied with abandoning "the church's teachings."

G takes out the specter of the forbidding, angry God from Walsch's childhood, waves it in front of him and asks how anyone could be friends with that God. Then G compliments Walsch on his courage to explore non-traditional ideas, taking millions of others along with him through his first book, Conversations with God.

Since life is an illusion, so is evil, and we should accept everything, even things we disagree with. "You would have us embrace the devil himself, wouldn't You?" challenges Walsch. To which G replies: "How else will you heal him?" [321]

Walsch starts pushing G on this, asking if it's true that no one should be punished for anything, and G. replies that we have to decide that, but that "highly evolved societies" have learned that letting someone suffer consequences for their action is better than punishment, [313]. Consequences are suffered on the inside of one's self, which is more effective than outside punishment. Walsch never asks who or where these evolved societies are.

G is able to get by with a lot using high-minded sounding phrases and big words that seem to get Walsch off-track. Walsch never asks the obvious questions, such as "Should we open the prison doors and let everyone out?" or "Should we do away with all our laws?" Walsch is satisfied when G pontificates on punishment and the need for one to experience consequences without going into practical details. In fact, the conversation quickly takes a turn into Zen-like statements about being "fully present, in every single moment" in order to be totally loving [317].

There is a climactic message all this talk about no right or wrong is leading into which is stated finally as "The New Gospel." It is introduced first after G states that there are "a thousand paths to God" which all get you there [357] and G declares that The New Gospel is that no one way is better than another: "There is no master race. There is no greatest nation. There is no true religion....or one and only way to Heaven....Only the truth I give you here will save you: WE ARE ALL ONE," [359]. Walsch is directed to carry this message "far and wide" around the world.

This New Gospel, according to G, will do away with wars, conflicts, turmoil and disharmony on earth. The New Gospel will also take away our fear that we will not survive, because G assures us that our survival is guaranteed, and "death is only a horizon," [359].

Walsch wants to know that since he is One with everything, is it okay to swat a mosquito? G evades the question for several pages, giving speeches on love and liberally quoting from the Bible, sometimes changing the words. Walsch finally reminds G he has not answered this question, and G replies that actually since all life is one and acts together, Walsch cannot kill the mosquito "against its will," [371].

Walsch at least recognizes the danger here, and points out that this could create "behavioral anarchy" which would allow people to do whatever they wanted. Coyly, G replies that we already have that because we are already doing what we want. Walsch then points out that our doctrines and laws of good and evil, right and wrong, etc. would be done away with by G's message and we need a new message to replace our old system. There is a new message, G announces, to replace the old one. It is the message that will bring us back to God, "The New Gospel: WE ARE ALL ONE" which is a "new message of total responsibility" telling us that we are all choosing together what happens, and the only way to change these choices is by doing it together [373].

Immediately afterwards, G adds to The New Gospel this phrase, "OURS IS NOT A BETTER WAY, OURS IS MERELY ANOTHER WAY," [375]. This is a phrase, always in all-caps, introduced earlier in the book without explanation, which is now declared to be part of The New Gospel. There will be a "shift" to this thinking, G announces, although those opposed to The New Gospel might cause "chaos," [404].

Of course, in blatantly rejecting the messages of any religion that what they teach is truth, or the idea that there is only one way to God, G is passing judgment on such teachings. He offers his New Gospel as the way to end conflict on earth, stating that it is the "only message that can change the course of human history," [373] which is a statement that his New Gospel is superior. Thus, G proves that he is not above judgment as he said he was. In fact, he is contradicting what he has said about himself and what he has been teaching Walsch.

Late in the book, G seems to become peeved by Walsch's statement that G keeps repeating himself. "You keep repeating yourself," G responds, " Your whole history has been a repeating of your own failures--in your personal life, and in the collective experience of your planet," [381]. Gee, G, I thought you didn't condemn anyone for anything!

If the concept of "better" does not exist, and there is no right or wrong, G has just violated those teachings by passing his judgment and offering his solution. G does this elsewhere in the book, but it's hidden in flowery language or embedded in a speech on another topic. An example of this is when G explains how the illusion of our separate beings came about. G tells Walsch that if he uses the ego as a tool to experience the "Only Reality, it is good" but if the ego is using Walsch to keep him from that reality, "it is not good," [80].

It's as if G is a clever magician who gets the reader's attention with a shiny diamond in one hand, while he palms a coin in the other. A reader paying close attention can catch on to this technique.

We can swallow better when we aren't thinking

After each astounding idea, before Walsch can delve into the possible consequences of such thinking, G takes Walsch down another beautiful path and entrances him once again. How can G get readers to accept these ideas? How to keep us on the path of The New Gospel? Well, it would certainly help if we think that thinking will keep us from true understanding. Thinking can only get us to question the fallacies, inconsistencies and contradictions enmeshed in G's ideas and would be something G would prefer the reader not to do. So G sets up the reader to think that thinking is bad.

G tells Walsch that he cannot find any answer quickly by thinking about it. "You have to get out of your thoughts, leave your thoughts behind, and move into pure beingness," [194].

G urges Walsch to "awareness," which is not thinking, "Get out of your mind. Remember, you are a human being, not a human minding," [195].

"Thinking is another form of being in a dream state. Because what you are thinking about is the illusion," says G, so he advises that from time to time, "it might be good to stop thinking all together. To get in touch with a higher reality," [200]. Then G gives instructions on how to meditate, based on Eastern techniques, in order to stop thinking.

Our "true state of being" is the "supraconscious," a place "above thought," [245]. The supraconscious is the combination of the superconscious, conscious, and subconscious "rolled into One--and then transcended," [245]. G impresses Walsch by telling him that they are into very "complex, esoteric understandings" where the "nuances, become very delicate," [246]. This is G the magician at work again, covering up shallow, meaningless terms by describing them as complex, when in reality they are no such thing. None of G's ideas are complex so much as they are wordy.

The crowning blow to thinking comes when G tells Walsch how much he loves everyone, that when "My children" sing, there are no "sour notes." G throws out a line of what he considers poetry: "The soul is that which beholds beauty even when the mind denies it," a statement which strikes Walsch with awe [385]. Temporarily blinded by this, Walsch listens as G continues, telling Walsch to always see things with his soul because his soul will see the beauty of "My words. Your mind will deny it forever. It is as I have told you: to understand God, you must be out of your mind," [385].

If Walsch or the reader really did think about this statement, it might give them pause. What G is really saying could be stated this way: "If something appears beautiful to you, or if I say something that sounds good, go for it; ignore what your mind and powers of reason tell you because that might cause you to see it is not really beautiful." Could this not be the perfect motto for an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-14)?

Walsch's call to action

On a secondary level, this book could be seen as a promotion for many people in what could be called the New Spirituality movement. Some of the people mentioned are George Lucas, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Ed Asner, Shirley MacLaine, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche, Dr. Gerald G. Jampolsky, Dr. Bernie Siegel, and Gary Zukav. Walsch also mentions the names of books written by those who are authors and gives brief biographies of their accomplishments. At times, Walsch's praise of these people borders on the slavish, as when he calls one a "Master" [273].

G even claims to have inspired Ken Keyes, Jr. in writing A Handbook to Higher Consciousness, New Age writer John Gray [109], and filmmaker George Lucas, specifically the phrase, "May the force be with you," for which G takes complete credit [228-9]! G agrees with Walsch that the late Keyes is now with G "free of his wheelchair," [110]. Walsch is now becoming a "messenger" like Keyes, G approvingly tells him.

Walsch's closing remarks advocate taking action. He first mentions a program called Dahnhak, which he says he has personally investigated and which is designed to help one connect "with the Creator Within," [418]. Dahn is supposedly an exercise/meditation program using the life force Ki or Chi for physical health and "spiritual awakening," [419]. The writer of this article typed in Dahnhak on her search engine and came up with a site for a Dahn retreat center in Arizona. There also were sites warning of the cultic tendencies of some Dahn groups in which people are recruited as free labor for various "masters." Either Walsch is unaware of these warnings or is ignoring them.

Walsch has not been passive with the advice he has received from G. He and New Age advocate Marianne Williamson co-founded the Global Renaissance Alliance for people who desire to use "spiritual principles and social action to change the world," [421]. The Board of Directors reads like a list of a New Age Who's Who: Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Jean Houston, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Thomas Moore, Carolyn Myss, James Redfield, and Gary Zukav. This foundation includes a Wisdom Circle (people answering letters with questions), a Crisis Response Team (volunteers giving information about their communities and sometimes acting as "lay counselors" to people who call in a spiritual crisis), and a Resource Network (groups of people around the world working on "spiritual and human betterment projects and ideas"), [422].

Walsch is also staring a new kind of school, the Heartlight School, for children, partly with the purpose of helping to lead them "to their own inner wisdom," [423]. Walsch foresees these schools opening across the planet. There are also Re-creating Yourself retreats, newsletters and other ways to be involved to help bring about a "fundamental shift in our collective consciousness," [424]. Until we realize that we are all One and speak with the one "voice of divinity within us," we cannot have peace [426]. Not surprisingly, another book by G and Walsch is planned, Communion with God. Walsch concludes, imitating the pretentious style of his mentor, G: "And that Voice shall be heard across the land--on Earth, as it is in Heaven," [426].

Conclusions

Walsch accepts unquestioningly that G is God, although G gives no evidence that he is who he says he is. G evades questions, contradicts himself, makes sweeping grandiose statements with nothing to back them up, has trite platitudes for philosophy and schtick for humor, butters up Walsch, and offers shallow advice culled from previous New Age writings. In fact, every single idea offered by G, which seems to strike Walsch as profound wisdom , was an idea this writer studied or read about starting back in the late 1970?s when she was personally involved in Eastern and New Age beliefs. And this is supposed to be God -- a gooey, gushing marshmallow of a god with a greeting card mentality?

One has only to compare the depth and beauty of the Psalms and other Biblical poetry with some of G's own offerings, such as "God is life, at its highest vibration" or "It bathes the mind with the wisdom of the soul" to see the vastly inferior quality of G's creativity. It must be this lack of talent and originality that drives G to constantly borrow from the Bible and weave it in with his own declarations. In the middle of one speech, G veers off into quoting the famed Ecclesiastes 3 passage, "A time to be born, and a time to die," ending this by saying it is time to awaken to truth because "deliverance is at hand," [230].

In fact, feeling that maybe he needs more than his usual grandiose and pretentious proclamations with which to end the book, G follows a final speech about how everyone is God by quoting extensively from I Corinthians 13. G concludes the passage with "then you knew in part, now you understand fully, even as you are fully understood. This is what it means to have a friendship with God," [415]. A few more remarks are made about love with the book ending with G and Walsch gushingly adoring each other.

G, who refers offhandedly to Jesus as a Master a few times, apparently rejects the words of Jesus in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" by constantly telling the reader that there are many ways to God, and that, in fact, we will all get there since we are God. In fact, G teaches against everything Jesus taught, including how our sinful nature is in need of a Savior since "there is no saving to be done at all, for love is what every soul is," [211]. But Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life, but the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me so that I can give you this eternal life," (John 5:39-40).

According to G, God is all-accepting and condemns nothing. Even a Hitler would have to be accepted. Here is a question for Walsch and those who accept G's advice and solutions: Would you be willing to live according to these principles? Under G's system, there should be no punishment for anything, you must accept everything, and no one can say anything is better than anything else since "no behavior is even called wrong," [315]. If all beliefs are equal, you cannot judge practices such as widow-burning, cannibalism, pedophilia, Satanism or female genital mutilation.

To build the "Highly Evolved Society" described by G, you would have to live according to the only real command given by G: love yourself . You would have to do away with that outdated religious morality G so despises. You would have to live with "anything goes" in sexuality, relationships, religions -- which might produce repellent practices. You would, according to G, have to allow everything and condemn nothing. Are you willing to live like this? Are you truly willing?

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