Neale Donald Walsch is a modern day spiritual messenger who has touched the lives of millions through his writings, teachings and other work. The renowned Conversations with God series has been translated into 34 languages and each book has made the New York Times Bestseller list, the first book staying on the list for over two and a half years. Neale will be speaking at the Celebrate Your Life Conference in Chicago, Illinois this June and will be inviting people to experience the physical presence of God.
Neale will be leading a session entitled Have Your Own Conversation With God at the upcoming Celebrate Your Life conference in Chicago in June 2010. This is the fifth of nine author interviews appearing on Care2 as part of the Celebrate Your Life series.
Care2: Can you explain the events leading up to the creation of your book Conversations with God.
Neale Donald Walsch: I was facing a time in my life, back in the late ’80s and the early ’90s, when you know just nothing was going right in my life… I did all the things I thought one is supposed to do. I was dependable, kind, courteous and all that good stuff. And yet at the age of 50 I was sitting there with this string of broken relationships, a whole string of jobs. Careers I had started and then moved on, and very, very bad health.
Then what happened was, to add insult to injury if you please, I had a car accident in which I broke my neck. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t lift anything more than three pounds. I couldn’t do any kind of manual labor at all, and I was suddenly out of work. I was rehabilitating myself, walking around. And all the doctors said, ‘you know, you’re very, very lucky because truly people with broken necks either are paralyzed or die, but you’re neither. You just really, really lucked out here.’ But it took 18 months, in fact more than 18 months, about 20 months, almost two years to rehab myself.
I was wearing what’s called a Philadelphia collar. And that’s when I really hit rock bottom. I’m 50 years old. I can’t get work. Nobody will hire a guy walking around with a collar around his neck. It’s an accident waiting to happen… So I couldn’t get a job anywhere. And I was down to my last 30 cents. I wound up becoming a homeless person living in a park.
After I had rehabilitated myself and gotten back into work, this was a two year process. I got back into the world of work and I realized how vacuous life really is. I said to myself, ‘is this it? is this all there is? Get up, go to work, come home, pay the rent, pay the phone bill, get some groceries in the house. Get up, go to work, pay the rent, pay the phone bill, get some groceries in the house. The same cycle every month leading to nothing and nowhere. Is this really it? Is this what I was born and raised for? What I’m going through for?’ And I didn’t get it. And I became very depressed.
And that’s when I had my conversation with God, where I actually had an awakening where I really, literally thought I heard the voice of God, or the voice of something over my left shoulder asking me if I was willing now. Essentially the message was: have you been brought to your knees enough? Are you ready now to look? Are you ready now to look at what’s really so, and what’s really true about life?
No one was there of course. And then I thought, ‘oh my God, this is going from bad to worse. Not only am I in this terrible situation, but I’m now hallucinating.’ But, interestingly enough I began to feel more becalmed and more at peace, almost to the point of joyful tears, than I had felt in years.
There was a yellow legal pad on the coffee table. I picked it up and I started writing down ‘what does it take to make life work? What I have done to deserve a life with such continuing struggle? You know, somebody tell me the rules, I’ll play. Just give me the rules.’ My God, I’m 50 years old. And that’s when I received the extraordinary information that resulted in what is now called Book 1 of the Conversations with God trilogy. That voice that was outside of myself, I experienced it then internally, almost as if it had moved into my mind. And I would ask a question, in my frustration, as we all do in those dark moments of our lives, but I would get an answer, which I never did before.
And so I wound up finding myself in an ongoing dialogue, question answer, question answer, question answer. This went on for about three and a half weeks. Every night at 4:15 or 4:25 in the morning I’d be awakened out of a sound sleep. I’d get back to my yellow legal pad and I’d start writing again picking up right where I left off. After three and a half or four weeks I must have had hundreds of hand written pages of question answer, question answer.
C2: Does everyone have the ability to have these same conversations with God?
NDW: Yes. Not only have I observed it but I have been told directly by God, ‘I talk to people all the time, all people all the time. The question is not to whom do I speak, the question is who’s listening.’
C2: If we all have this ability [to talk to God], what prevents us from doing so? Why don’t people have the same experience that you do?
NDW: I think that people do have the same experience that I do, they simply call it something else. We have been culturalized by our religions and by our society in general to dismiss out of hand any notion that we could have a two-way conversation with God. I thought Lily Tomlin, the wonderful comedian, put this really wonderfully a few years ago. She said ‘when I tell people that I talk to God every day they call me devout. When I tell people that God talks to me every day, they call me crazy.’ She nailed it because that’s exactly what it is. Our cultures and our religions have told us that God does not talk to us. It’s worse than that. Our religions tell us that if we think God is talking to us, we are either hallucinating, have delusions of grandeur or if we’re doing it deliberately, saying these things deliberately, we’re a blasphemer.
C2: Why do they do this?
NDW: It’s self-survival time for religions. If it’s true that God speaks directly to every human being, then we don’t need organized religion and organized religion has a huge investment in staying organized, as do all organizations.
C2: If people have the ability to talk to God, is there still something out of organized religion that they can benefit from?
NDW: Of course. The wisdom that flows through the world’s great religions sustains humanity through its most difficult times. No one would deny that, least of all me. So there’s no question that the world’s organized religions offer enormous, unspeakable gifts to humanity.
The comfort that [followers] get from their Imamah if they’re a member of the Islamic faith. From their Rabbi if they’re a member of the Jewish faith. From their priest or minister if they’re a Christian. Or for that matter any faith. The Baha’i faith, the Hindu faith, if they’re a Buddhist. Organized religion has probably been the greatest blessing to ever be visited upon the human experience short of having a direct conversation with God.
The only difficulty with organized religions is that some of them, not all of them, but some of them feel that there are no further questions to be asked.
You’re not supposed to ask questions in bible class that are irreverent or that might question the authority of the bible. And similarly in other faiths across the board. Questioning is not allowed, listening is allowed, accepting is allowed. Testifying is allowed. Agreeing is allowed. Questioning is not.
If God comes along and had one message to the world, I would say it would be this: “You got me all wrong.” That’s a very powerful statement because suddenly it invites, encourages and approves of us asking the questions once again. And the first question is this: Is it possible that there’s something we don’t fully understand here, the understanding of which could change everything. Or as Joan Rivers would say, can we talk?
C2: What would you say to someone who says they’ve been asking these questions but they don’t feel like they’ve received any kind of answer?
NDW: Keep asking. There are people who have meditated for 30 years. On and off, obviously not continually but everyday for 30 years. Keep asking. I would say the same thing that the Buddhists said. I would say the same thing that all the great masters, all the great saints and sages and the lesser philosophers as well, and average people too have said from the beginning of time. Keep asking. Keep asking. It’s the question, the question, always live in the question. Keep asking. If you ask the questions earnestly and purely enough soon one day you’ll chance upon the answer. It’ll land on you. In the meantime, stand firm in your earnestness to know. Don’t throw up your hands and, because you see what causes people to not know, what causes them to have such a difficult time getting there… probably I should tell you incidentally that this isn’t something that happened to me in a flash of an eye. You must understand I’ve been asking these kinds of questions about life, as we all have, for 50 years.
C2: By asking these questions, are we able to manifest what we want in our life?
NDW: I think that we are always manifesting what we want in our life, we just don’t know how we’re doing it. I think life is a process by which we manifest what is next most beneficial to us to experience and to express as we seek to accomplish what we came here to do.
But I’m always brought back to the wonderfully instructive, holy and sacred experience of Jesus Christ. And I ask people routinely in my lectures and my retreats, ‘Do you think that what happened to Christ happened to Him or through Him? That is, do you think He was the victim or at some level, at some high metaphysical level the creator of that experience?’
He knew what was going on and He stepped right into it. He had His reasons, He had His purposes. They were religious purposes or sacred reasons that not everyone understands or believes, but that’s His story. So no I don’t think at that level He was a victim. He stepped right into the story He created for Himself.
C2: Are we all responsible for situations that we’re in?
NDW: At some high metaphysical level we are all co-creating together, dare I use the word matrix of experiences and events and occurrences that co-creatively create both the evolutionary process of an entire species known as humanity, as well as the individual process that each of us as a member of that species are undergoing. So the answer to your question is, we are creating our exterior events, the outward events of our outward life co-creatively with the other six billion people on the planet. And we are creating our interior experience of those events individually.
If we as individuals seek to experience a more wonderful, joyous, peaceful and loving life then we need to make it our business to work to create exactly those conditions in the lives of another. Or, as the Master Jesus put it far more simply than I just did, do unto others as you would have it done unto you.
C2: Where do you see us moving in the next 50 years?
NDW: I think we’re moving into a place of what my dear friend Barbara Marks Hubbard would call the birthing of a new humanity. I think that we have gone through a gestation period, that is, as a species of many, many millions of years. And that the time of our birthing, of our ultimate emergence into the universal society of enlightened beings, is at hand. And this process of our birthing will take place over not millions of years, but certainly thousands. We are in the end of a series of many millennia in which we will, as a species I’m speaking now, finally emerge into the universal community of enlightened beings, sentient beings.
That’s what we’re doing now, and is it a coincidence that it’s all coming to a head at our around the year 2012? Of course not. It’s been predicted in fact. However, some people have understood those predictions to mean the so called end of history or somehow some huge disaster. It’s not going to be a huge disaster, as we will discover. It is going to be what Barbara Marks Hubbard calls day one of the new dispensation. Day one of the new thousand years of movement into the next level of our expression as a class of sentient being in the universe. Where we will begin to use our creativity collectively, our collective genius to rise above our petty differences, the least of which are petty differences about God. And to stand before the universe as a newly emergent species prepared to take our place among the enlightened beings of the cosmos.
C2: How do you define enlightenment?
NDW: I define enlightened beings as beings who are aware of themselves. That is, beings who are evolving not unconsciously but consciously. Or to put it another way, beings who are determining ahead of time how they wish to evolve rather than simply watching themselves evolve, but who are actually playing a role, a participatory part in the manner in which they evolve.
C2: To embrace this new kind of humanity, is one of the first steps to start asking more questions and not just sticking with what is the same and accepting everything that we’re taught?
NDW: Of course that would be true. If you keep on repeating the past, you keep on reproducing the results that the past had produced. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting to get a different result is the definition of insanity. So of course the first step is to keep asking the questions, and then to dare to embrace previously unacceptable answers.
There was a time on this planet where if you were left handed you were considered to be an instrument of the devil. There was a time in the history of this species, and I’m not talking 3,000 years ago, I’m talking like just a few years ago, where it was against the law of God for people of different races to marry. A black man with a white woman or a white man with a black woman, absolutely unheard of. Can’t be done. So you need to understand that George Bernard Shaw had it right. He said, all great truth begins as blasphemy.