Book Review: Conversations With God

While traveling in Cappadocia, Turkey in Fall 2011 I stayed at a hotel built into an old cave. The Cappadocia region is known for the early christian culture that made refuge from non-christian leadership by making their hidden homes inside carved rooms in the mountains. The landscape looks like a cross between drippy-sandcastles and the surface of the moon. Over breakfast in this scenic location, I found a book of interest in the book-swap shelf. Actually, I found 2. Conversations With God Books 1 and 2 by Neal Donald Walsch. I had heard of the books before, but wanted to know more. I swapped a few books of mine to pick them up and started reading.

The books are meant to be a ‘real’ conversations between the author and god. A conversation the author claims happened between 1993 and the few years that followed. He considered himself a christian, but the books cover a perspective that is decidedly non-traditionally christian, or not christian at all, depending on your point of view. The original 3 books covered here sold very well, as have some follow-up books by the author. More about the author can be found at his website nealedonaldwalsch.com.

I found CWG, particularly book 1, to be a refreshing take on religion. It is seductively easy to read, because it tells the reader what he wants to hear. That we are empowered to be anything we want, that heaven and hell do not exist, and that there is no sin and no judgement process.

Summary of CWG

Here is Sylvain Poirier‘s summary of Neale Donald Walsch’s doctrine as expressed in the Conversations with God book 1:

The goal of your life is to seek what is Truth and Love (according to God’s messages of feelings (and I do not remember what)) and to recognize, re-member, find, choose, create, become and make the experience of Who You Are and Who You Want To Be. You do not have to seek knowledge (because you  already have knowledge, as a spirit connected to the Whole), but you have to act to express Who You Are without worrying about the result, because the result is assured: nothing is bad, nothing matters, nothing does oppose the will of God or escapes Him, because God is all, accepts all and will be always there to recover us.

Nothing comes by chance, all is the expression of a will by oneself, others, or the totality of the spirits of the universe. One does not have to want something from outside (as to want it is the assertion of a lack, a negative thought which has the spiritual power to be realized as a lack thus pushing away its satisfaction) but if something that we undergo does not reflect our Highest Idea of the life, one must endorse one’s responsibility by recognizing our unity of spiritual nature with those who caused it, and change our choices in order to bring us closer this Idea that we want to reflect.

Decision Making

I created this diagram to outline the CWG perspective on decision making.

God’s motive for creation - In Walsch’s first dialogue, God notes that “knowing” and “experiencing” oneself are different things. Before creation there was only That-Which-Is, which cannot know or experience itself fully, without something it is not. It cannot know itself as love, since nothing exists but love. It cannot know itself as giving since nothing else exists to give to. It cannot experience itself in myriad ways because everything is one.

Some parallels we see between Walsch’s god’s perspective and other religions are;

  • Souls reincarnate to eventually experience God-realization ([Hinduism]/’ ‘Bhagavad-Gita/Sikhism).
  • Feelings are more important as a source of guidance than intellect (Rousseau).
  • We are not here to learn anything new but to remember what we already know (Hinduism/Plato).
  • Physical reality is an illusion (Hinduism/ Sikhism/Buddhism‘s concept of maya).
  • One cannot understand one thing unless he or she understands its opposite (Tao Te Ching).
  • God is everything. (Hinduism / Spinoza / Brahman)
  • God is self-experiential, in that it is the nature of the Universe to experience itself. (Hinduism/Hegel, and process theology as first outlined by Alfred North Whitehead)
  • God is not fear-inducing or vengeful, only our parental projections onto God are. Fear or love are the two basic alternative perspectives on life (Drewermann)
  • Good and evil do not exist (as absolutes, but can exist in a different context and for different reasons as Nietzsche).
  • Reality is a representation created by will. (Schopenhauer)
  • Nobody knowingly desires evil. (Socrates)
  • It’s just a ride. (Bill Hicks)

In Favor of CWG

Evita Ochel of EvolvingBeings celebrates the book. She says, “I personally consider this one book, and it is “the book” that has helped me remember who I really am, why I am here and the greater purpose of it all. This is the book that changed my life, and began a huge spiritual shift within me, as well as marked the start of a very special journey of awakening for me.

Aaron says, “I don’t know if Mr. Walsh is talking to God or not. I don’t really care. What I have read in these books has caused me to ask questions about my own belief system and ask questions about my understanding of me, God, and the Universe. The real treasure with this book and this trilogy, is that we are asked to question our understanding of our Self. We are asked to do the unthinkable and question the validity of organized religions. We are asked to question the direction of our life and determine if that direction will define Who We Really Are.”

Against CWG

Professor Donald Mitchell says, “The main thing I would like to say in the beginning is that this book shares some elements with Christianity, but is certainly not Christianity of the sort that most people will recognize. So if you do not like to read books that are at odds with your version of Christianity, avoid this one. It will be a one star book for you.”

The most unexpected part of the book for me was that the voice of God (as described in the book) is a very colloquial and humorous one. It is hard for me to equate this God with the God of Moses and Jesus Christ. But that may just be my limitation. To give you a flavor, the language is much like that in the George Burns movie of many years ago, Oh God.

Blogger, JPH found poor Biblical exegesis here and there, but nothing solid or worth reporting.

Here are some highlights from each book

Book 1

Cwg book 1 280 100 v1

Summary

From Amazon – Conversations with God Book 1 began a series that has been changing millions of lives for more than ten years. Finally, the bestselling series is now a movie, starring Henry Czerny (The Pink Panther and Clear and Present Danger) and Ingrid Boulting (The Last Tycoon). Produced and directed by Stephen Simon (producer of Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come) and distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Fox Home Entertainment, the theatrical release is set for October 27, 2006. The movie is the true account of Walsch (played by Cierny), who went from an unemployed homeless man to an “accidental spiritual messenger” and author of the bestselling book

Highlights

Here are some quotes;

  1. So-do you want your life to ‘take off?’ Begin at once to imagine it the way you want it to be–and move into that. Check every thought, word, and action that does not fall into harmony with that. Move away from those.”
  2. “When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts–thoughts that negate your highest idea about a thing–think again! I want you to do this, literally. If you think you are in a doldrum, in a pickle, and no good can come of this, think again. If you think the world is a bad place, filled with negative events, think again. If you think your life is falling apart, and it looks as if you’ll never get it back together again, think again.”
  3. There is nothing scary about life if you are not attached to the results.”
  4. “Choose, but don’t want. Think ‘I choose success,’ not ‘I want success.’”
  5. “There is nothing you cannot be, there is nothing you cannot do. There is nothing you cannot have.”
  6. “The most rapid way to change a root thought, or sponsoring idea, is to reverse the thought-word-deed process. Do the deed that you want to have the new thought about. Then say the words that you want to have your new thought about. Do this often enough and you’ll train the mind to think a new way.”

Book 2

Cwg book 2 280 100 v1

Summary

From Amazon - In Conversations with God: Book II, Neale Walsch and God resume their discussion and move on to larger topics than the personal issues addressed in their previous dialogue in Volume 1. For an “unedited transcript” of a conversation, Book II is remarkably well organized and articulate, as if Walsch anticipatd our “but what about” questions before we asked them. The peculiar pair discuss time, space, politics, and even kinky sex, but Conversations with God: Book II isn’t here for just shock value. It is an honest look at some of the broad issues important to all of us on the planet, and a suggestion of how things might go if we are all willing to open our minds and have our own conversations with divinity.

Book 3

Cwg book 3 280 100 v1

Summary

From Amazon - The dialogue expands . . . Conversations with God, Book 3 is the final book of the original three-book series. As was written in the introduction to Book 1, it deals with “universal truths of the highest order, and the challenges and opportunities of the soul.” In Book 3, the dialogue expands to include more about the nature of God, about love and fear, about Who We Are and who we may become, and about the evolution of the human species that is about to take its place in the universal neighborhood. Here is a profound dialogue about the culture, philosophy, and spirituality of highly evolved beings (some of whom we presently call “aliens” or “ETs”) in other realms of the universe, and how they have learned to view life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. By reading this book, you will begin to see life in a different way and begin to question the truth of what you have known on this planet: “And so I end this dialogue as it began. As with life itself, it comes full circle. You have been given truth here. You have been given joy. You have been given love. You have been given here the answers to the largest mysteries of life. There is now only one question remaining. It is the question with which we began. “The question is not, to whom do I talk, but who listens?”

Misc

There is a movie of Conversations With God, from 2006. It has an ‘after school special’ low-budget feel. I don’t recommend it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/srivello Samuel Asher Rivello

    Evita Ochel of www.evitaochel.com wrote the following comment:

    Excellent overview of the CWG book(s) and your insights. I enjoyed reading this post, and as you know my thoughts about these messages. My heart and soul just smile when I feel its energy. Thank you by the way for the quote and mention.

    I really like what you quoted too from the other person, in terms of not caring if Neale is really talking to God or not. For me this was a similar feeling in that it is neither to worship Neale or the “God” he talked to. To me he is simple tapping into a divine energy – the divine energy that is within each one of us, except not all of us are able to tap into it. And I respect that not everyone will resonate with what was shared, nor should they, but for me personally, I owe my liberation, my spiritual awakening to a large degree to this book and the wisdom it shares :)

    All the best to you!