Beliefnet chatted with author and spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson about her latest book 'Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century' on March 6, 2001, on Yahoo.

bnet_ellen: Hello everybody and welcome to today's chat with Marianne Williamson! An internationally acclaimed author and lecturer on spirituality, she'll be chatting about her lastest book, "Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century," which includes pieces written by such well-known thinkers as Deepak Chopra and John Gray. Her first book, "A Return to Love," topped The New York Times best-seller list for 35 weeks, and her second book, "A Woman's Worth," topped the best-seller lists for 19 weeks. Beliefnet welcomes best-selling author Marianne Williamson! Thanks for being with us today.

beliefnet_marianne: Thank you, I'm so glad to be here!

bnet_ellen: Let's get started with the first question ... zooey_franny asks: do you think we need more spirituality as americans in the 21st century? beliefnet_marianne: No doubt about that. We've got 9th graders killing each other in the halls at school. deuceweb2000 asks: I am a student of the course in miracles and I'm curious as to how you first got involved in the course and what part of it has had the greatest impact on your life?
beliefnet_marianne: I first saw Course in Miracles sitting on someone's coffee table in New York City, 1975. I cannot believe how long ago that was. But it's true. Two years later, I began a serious study of the Course, and my life has certainly taken a different direction than it would have, had I never found that book. As I have written about before, the primary lesson that Course in Miracles has taught me, is that my relationship to God is not separate from my relationship to other people. I've learned that I can't achieve inner peace without forgiving at all times, to the best of my ability. This is not always easy, and I consider myself an intermediate student, but at least I know what the path is now, regardless of whether or not I'm always successful at walking it. zooey_franny asks: how did you get deepak chopra and john gray to contribute to your book? beliefnet_marianne: They are both very lovely, very generous men. I feel very blessed to know them both. deuceweb2000 asks: Do you believe each of us chose to come to this earth , chose our parents and our situations? beliefnet_marianne: I think the Holy Spirit made those decisions for us. zooey_franny asks: hi marianne - where do you find the inspiration for your books? beliefnet_marianne: Wherever I can!! scientific_rationalist asks:: Please define what you mean by spirituality, and then tell us why that will cure society's ills
beliefnet_marianne: To me, the spiritual path is the path back to love -- back from our defensiveness, our hurt, our judgment, our blame, our fear, our guilt, our hurt, and our violence. Beneath all those things lies love we were born with, the love that so often remains hidden throughout our lives, and yet often surfaces on or around our death. That young boy who shot his classmates at the school in California yesterday is in essence a scared little boy. When they captured him, he was on his knees in the boys' restroom crying, "It's only me." Society can now do what it tends to do in moments like this, at least American society. We can focus on his trial and the form of his punishment, but all of us know, in the depths of our hearts, because it's not where the real problem lies. What we have here, as President Bush himself pointed out, I think in his inaugural speech, is a failure of love. The same goes for every act of violence and hatred. The person who committed the crime was not born to do that. They were born in love, and then something went terribly wrong. At bottom, these are not legal, political or even social issues. At bottom, they are spiritual issues. Because the darkness of the world begins with the darkness that first set within someone's heart. deuceweb2000 asks: In the case of the boy who just shot up the school... why would the Holy Spirit or us with our free will want anything like that to happen ? beliefnet_marianne: Neither the Holy Spirit, nor any of us in our right minds, would ever, ever want anything like that to happen. In fact, the Holy Spirit IS another name for our Right Mind. Someone who perpetrates an act like that is always quite literally temporarily insane. cutlass8520012000 asks: do u think he should be tried as an adult? beliefnet_marianne: I absolutely do not. This is a terrible, terrible trend now occurring throughout the United States. It's one more way that America can hide its face from the awful truth regarding the state of our children. I feel all of us should be vigilant on behalf of resisting this trend. LSheahen asks: In his essay in the new book, james redfield says we're changing from a newtonian model to a more jungian model. since jung came on the scene many years ago, why now?

beliefnet_marianne: Jung said that if you go deep enough into all of our minds, there is a level of mental imagery -- Jung called them archetypes -- that we all share. The old Newtonian paradigm gave little credence to the power of consciousness. But today we are becoming profoundly aware of the mind's role in creating our realities. Jung's notion of archetypes makes even more sense to us now, as we appreciate more fully the role of consciousness in determining our experience of life.

blueblueface asks: do you think that this interest in spirituality is just a passing "new age" trend? beliefnet_marianne: The interest in spirituality dates back thousands and thousands of years. What will one day be seen as merely a trend is our materialistic obsession with externals that cannot deeply feed us. The Industrial Revolution, in historical terms, will be seen as a trend. The love of God will not. LSheahen asks: What do reps of Eastern religions have to say about creating a better future? beliefnet_marianne: I have heard a Course in Miracles referred to as a perfect blend of Eastern and Western religious thought. I understand that idea. The Eastern world view, while less analytical than the Western, takes a more holistic view of life. Let's take Buddha, for instance. Buddha recognized the physical world as a realm of illusion, which he called maya. The only way to transcend the pain of the world was by withdrawing our faith in the illusion of its existence. That perspective is both very ancient and deeply modern. Eastern spirituality is profoundly relevant to the times in which we live. me_chinga asks: How do we train the mind to create our ideal reality beliefnet_marianne: The word "religion" means "to bind back". The purpose of religion, believe it or not, is to do precisely that. Its purpose is to bind us back to the consciousness from whence flows a world on earth as it is in heaven. It's hard to recognize that today, given so much focus on religious doctrines and dogma. But that spiritual journey is what people long for, and the path takes many forms. All the great traditions have at their core a mystical teaching. And that is where you find the practice of God's love, the guidance and illumination necessary to bring it down into the regions of the earth. A Course in Miracles is certainly such a path. And as you know, it is my path. When you work it, it works.
beckyephillips asks: How will life change for american women in the 21st century? beliefnet_marianne: That depends on how we, the women of America, decide for it to change. We will basically take one of two routes: We will allow ourselves to be co-opted by the forces of shallow achievement that pass for success in the world today, or we will take up our cosmic role as mothers of a new world. If we do the latter -- and I think that there are millions of us who long to do so -- then watch out. The world will never be the same. hereinpa2000 asks: Is there one political issue that affects the issues you raise in your new book? reading the introduction, you give examples of lawyers and others who are seeing connections between inner and outer life. But what about our leaders, do they see it? How?

beliefnet_marianne: If you read the essay in the book on Government, by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, you will note that he has already sent to legislative counsel in the U.S. House of Representatives a proposal for a cabinet-level Department of Peace. This, to me, is an example of more enlightened thinking within the political realm. His is a very inspiring essay.

blueblueface asks: do you think it is dangerous to be mixing so many religious philosophies? won't they just get watered down and float away?beliefnet_marianne: When a man and woman come together and decide to share their lives, the man doesn't become less of a man, and the woman doesn't become less of a woman. I think I understand your concern, because I do believe that it is important to recognize the specific value of all the great religious traditions. They have their own identities, and they serve us more than we recognize that fact At the same time, we are living in a moment when people are very interested, and for good reason, in the universal spiritual themes at the heart of all the great spiritual traditions. There is a kind of parallel phenomenon occurring now: on one hand, people are going back to their roots, religiously, with Jews becoming more Jewish, Muslims becoming more Muslim, Christians becoming more Christian etc. At the same time, we are countering any temptation to balkanize by deeply appreciating the oneness of God, who is the same invisible hand behind every great religious teaching. Look at the Middle East, and tell me we don't need greater appreciation of other religions., Look at Northern Ireland we don't need appreciation of other peoples' religion. Look at Bosnia and tell me we don't need appreciation of other peoples' religion.
scientific_rationalist asks: What's your opinion about the "spirituality" of the Taliban that requires them to destroy Buddhist statues in Afghanistan? beliefnet_marianne: I see no spirituality whatsoever in the Taliban. The fact that someone talks about God does not mean that they are of God. There were Muslims throughout the world who begged Taliban not to destroy those statues. I think that their actions were obscene. It struck a blow to the heart of all humanity, because something that sacred to any religion should be sacred to all. Given how the taliban treats women, by the way. bnet_ellen: Many folks want to know which of your books they should dig into first if they aren't familiar with your work. beliefnet_marianne: I suppose I should say "A Return to Love." It was my first book, and I suppose it underlies all the rest. deuceweb2000 asks: Barbara Marx Hubbard believes that women are evolving from procreating to co-creating and that that energy that is now directed toward a better life. Have you connected with her?

beliefnet_marianne: Absolutely. She is a good friend of mine, and I think she's wonderful. She also wrote an essay in Imagine. The subject is the U.S. Presidency and the essay is about the night of the election of the first woman President! You should check it out. :-)

hereinpa2000 asks: Why are you optimistic about the problems we're facing in this next century--I am not!
beliefnet_marianne: I don't think anybody who has read my work or heard me speak would find me naive about the problems which confront us. But I believe that optimism is a moral imperative, and cynicism is just an excuse for not helping. I am optimistic for one reason only: I believe in the genius of the human heart and the power of the human mind. But every day, I believe more people are waking up to the possibilities The more people awaken, the more people become inwardly prepared to take the actions necessary to change the world. It's like a tennis game. You simply cannot afford to spend even one moment indulging regret over the last stupid move. You must be fully present and looking forward to what you can do to pull it out now. mackie37 asks: Were you among the group of spiritual advisers that counseled the Clintons some time ago? Are you in contact with them now? beliefnet_marianne: If you came to my house and talked to me about your personal issues, I would never, ever tell anyone about it. blueblueface asks: thank you for answering our questions. we feel very lucky to communicate with you. what do we all need to do to get "prepared" for all of the changes that are to come? beliefnet_marianne: I would never presume to know what you should do. that the same internal teacher that instructs me about my life instructs you about yours. I believe, literally, in the still small voice for God, and the more we pray, the more we meditate, the more clearly we hear that voice in our own lives. In A Course in Miracles, there is a daily prayer that I love: Where would you have me go? What would you have me say? And to whom? What would you have me do? I find in my own life, that the more I ask those questions, the more the answers come. schubird2 asks: How can we raise children spiritually so that school shootings cannot occur in the future?

beliefnet_marianne: This society will continue to find itself at the effects of violence until we commit ourselves to the ways of nonviolence. Our judgments are violent, our placing economic principles before humanitarian concerns is itself violent, much of our television and video games are violent, our catering to the N.R.A. is an acquiescence to violence, our willingness to tolerate social and economic injustice in a acquiescence to violence, and until we are ready, each of us, to give up the guns in our own heads, then none of this violence that threatens us today will fundamentally change.

beliefnet_marianne: Each of us carry in our own lives a little bit of the problem, and each of us are capable of a big piece of the solution. Every act of love is a part of the solution. Every prayer is a part of the solution. Every life committed to love is part of the solution, and slowly but surely that field of love is becoming a large scale social force in this country. Hopefully this conversation today is a little part of the solution in all of our lives. We can only do what we can where we are, but all those drops of water form an ocean in the long run. jrtoronto asks: I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that we can respect the teachings and traditions of all religions and see what's sacred to one as sacred to all. But I find that I tend to want to change how everyone else thinks about it and sometimes forget to personalize it. How do you manage to balance that? How do you "teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" while remembering to do it in your own life as well? beliefnet_marianne: We are not here to take anyone else's inventory or tell anyone else what they should do or be. It takes 24 hours a day to monitor ourselves as best we can. To teach, according to A Course in Miracles, is to demonstrate. The only way to teach love is to be love, and disrespect toward the opinions of others is a lack of love. It does nothing to help the world. That doesn't mean you can't call a spade a spade, by the way. I don't feel it necessary to show respect for the Taliban, for instance. They do not reflect, in my mind, the world view of Islam.
deuceweb2000 asks: Do you see the internet as a positive tool in connecting those of us that would like to effect change? beliefnet_marianne: Absolutely! I hope that all of you will look into the website of the Global Tenaissance Alliance at . www.renaissancealliance.org. You will hear more about how we can continue this kind of conversation in our lives. The Internet is like everything else in the material world: its holiness, or lack of holiness, depends totally on how people use it. The opportunities it affords us for community and enlightenment are awesome. I am very grateful for the opportunity I have had to join with all of you today.

bnet_ellen: Thank you for being with us tonight, Marianne! For more information on Marianne and her works visit www.marianne.com.

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