Neale Donald WalschNeale Donald Walsch had his first "conversation with God" in 1992, when at a particularly low point in his life he scribbled down an angry letter to God -- and received what he believed was a divine answer. As questions occurred to him, more answers came to him and he wrote them all down in a process he describes as "exactly like dictation." His best-selling "Conversations With God" books have been translated into 27 different languages. He talked with Beliefnet about his 2002 book, "The New Revelations."

You say that human beings are facing "the sudden and eruptive disintegration of life as we know it." What is the nature of this crisis in the world?
You mean how it's manifesting itself? It's manifesting itself in continuing and enduring conflict on the Indi-Pakistani border, in 50 years of unending conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in ongoing shooting in Ireland, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It manifests itself in ways that are apparent and obvious by the picking up of any daily newspaper.

There have always been wars, and plagues, and horrible things happening throughout human history. Is all of this somehow coming to a head now?
The difference between then and now is that we have never before had the ability to wipe out the entire human race in one fell swoop. That is, our technologies have raced ahead of our ability to stop conflict. It is the great sadness of our species that we have not found a way to eliminate the conflict and to eliminate violence as a device to resolve our conflicts throughout the entire history of the human race. This demonstrates us to be a very very primitive species -- that across the span of thousands of years, we still use the equivalent of clubs to alter our behaviors with each other. But the problem right now is that the clubs have gotten very, very large.

And you believe that organized religion not only doesn't help to resolve this problem, doesn't offer us the solutions that we need -- but that it in fact contributes to the problem?
A particular kind of organized religion -- exclusivist, punitive organized religion. That is, organized religion that says, "Our way is the only way." Because exclusivist organized religions teach us, and indeed command us, to separate ourselves from each other as a means of getting back to God. Which is interesting since God is the ultimate unity in all of the universe. Nothing has done more to separate and divide human beings one from another than exclusivist organized religion. The 200 years of the Christian Crusades is a prime example of that. The flying of airplanes into buildings in New York city all the while shouting "Allah is great" is another extraordinary example of that. These are religious and cultural expressions of enormously mistaken beliefs. And until we approach the changing of these behaviors at the level of belief rather than at the level of behavior, we will never see the behaviors go away.

Is the problem inherent in people, or does it emerge when we organize our religions? Is it that people misunderstand the message of religions?

There's no way you can misunderstand the teachings of the Qur'an, there's no way you can misunderstand the teachings of the Bible, there's no way you can misunderstand the teachings of the Bhaghavad Gita, or of the Book of Mormon, or of the other sacred texts of many of those religions. Those teachings are very very clear and they cannot possibly be misunderstood.

How do you misunderstand the following words [from Exodus 32]? "Take every man his sword by his side and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp and slay every man his brother and every man his companions and every man his neighbor." How do you misunderstand Numbers 25? "Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the Lord." How do you misunderstand the quotations from the Qur'an or the Bhagavad Gita as well? Which are equally direct and very very violent. Listen to the Bhaghavad Gita at Chapter 2 text 31: "You should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles so there is no need for hesitation." Read the Qur'an at Surah 9:123: "Oh ye who believe fight the unbelievers who gird you about and let them find firmness in you and know that Allah is with those who fear him."

You cannot misunderstand these words, these words are very clear. Now apologists for all of these scriptural writings say, "Oh, those words are meant metaphorically, they don't really mean fight, as in fight and kill people. It's a metaphor, it means struggle on behalf of your faith. And that's all very well and good and I would suggest to you that probably 90% of the followers of those various faiths and the readers of those various texts agree that those words are today are to be understood as metaphors and not to be taken literally. Regretfully, however, about 10% take them quite literally and actually scream them out load as they slit the throats or bomb the people with whom they disagree.

You say that God is always talking to us in different ways, and that we just need to learn how to listen. So are we failing to listen the right way, or are these exclusivist religions fundamentally flawed?
I think that these exclusivist religions carry great wisdom and great truths in 90% of their teachings. I think, however, that there is a portion of what they teach which is fallacious. And those fallacies are very dangerous to the human condition because they give authority that is Biblical, Koranic, scriptural authority to people. People hold up these books as they commit their murders and their massacres.

And it's not the first time nor will it be the last that that kind of atrocity is committed on the face of the earth by people in the name of God. Leading one to understand completely why we are now seeing bumper stickers all over the world: "God, Save Me From Your People."

The world is hungry. The world is starving for a new spiritual truth -- a truth that works in sustaining life, not a truth that brings an end to life. The world is searching for a new spiritual path, begging begging for a new set of understandings. Most of its people simply do not dare to say so publicly. It can be very fearful for people to go against the prevailing notion of things, even when the prevailing notion of things is killing them.

Yet we must challenge ourselves, we must challenge our society, we must challenge our world. We must collectively ask, "Is this who we are? Is this who we choose to be? Is what we are now demonstrating in the world in our headlines in our daily news - is this the only way we can live? Is this the only way we can know how to behave? Is it possible that there might be another way? And do we have the courage to seriously look at what that might be? Do we have the courage to accept the answer that our searching uncovers?" That's the question of the day.


What is the "new spirituality" you are proposing?
What we are inviting the human race to do is to sit down and open a dialogue on just that question, on what the New Spirituality -- capital N, capital S -- could and might look like. But I believe that the New Spirituality will not be a rejection of the old nor a complete abandonment of it. My writing does not say that we ought to simply step away from and completely reject our ancient religious teachings or beliefs. It says, not that those beliefs are wrong, but that they are simply incomplete. It's as if you were given half the instructions to put something together and we've received only half the instructions on how to put together our lives on this planet.

But aren't they more than incomplete? All the things you talked about earlier -- all the violence in the sacred texts. You seemed to be saying they're not just incomplete but wrong.
There is no such thing as right and wrong. There is only what works and what does not work given what it is you are trying to do. And so I would not say that those religions are wrong. I would say that those religions are incomplete in their understandings and out of that incomplete understanding they have created belief systems and teachings which simply are not functional; that is, they do not work. The New Spirituality therefore invites people to look at our ancient traditions and our ancient beliefs and to retain those which continue to function, which continue to work, that is to say, which serve us. But when we identify a belief or a thought or a teaching that clearly does not function but creates dysfunction then we are invited to step away from that belief and to look to see if there might not be new ideas, new thoughts, new theological concepts, new understandings that could bring us closer to a kind of new spirituality that could allow everyone to live in peace and harmony on this planet.

And "The New Revelations" of course is about exactly that. It contains nine new revelations that could form the basis of such an opening exploratory discussion, nine new theological concepts that are completely counter or different from many of the basic precepts and concepts of many of the exclusivist punitive organized religions in the world today.

I'll give you an example. New Revelation #3 says "No path to God is more direct than any other path. No religion is the one true religion. No people are the chosen people and no prophet is the greatest prophet." Now what would happen in the world today if the world simply embraced that new notion and nothing else new, just that one? If we just simply embraced that one as the one new concept that we chose to add to our old religions it would open the way for each of us to express and to experience our own religion as fully as we are today but simply stop us from making each other wrong and condemning each other for not doing their religion the same way we do ours.

New Revelation # 4 is equally interesting: "God needs nothing. God requires nothing in order to be happy. God is happiness itself. Therefore God requires nothing of anyone or anything in the universe. A non-need-based God sitting at the top of all religions would change the imperatives of those religions enormously and shift the axis of our religious experience away from needing to placate God to a place of co-creating with God.

We have done some terrible things on this planet in our attempt to placate God. We've persecuted others, causing them incredible suffering. We've killed people by the millions in order to please this God of ours. Our idea that God is not happy and that we are the cause is what has created the insane basis for insane religions to inspire people to act insanely.

Do you see yourself as a prophet?
No, of course not. I see myself as a harbinger, an announcer, a messenger. Not unlike John the Baptist, who would not have called himself a prophet either. But would have said he has come here to wake people up. I think we are all messengers. and that's by the way New Revelation #2: "No human being is more special than any other human being who has ever lived, lives now, or ever will live." I want to repeat that because people think that I think that I'm special. The second revelation is very clear on this point. "No human being is more special than any other human being who has ever lived, lives now, or ever will live." We are all messengers.

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