Friday, November 27, 2009

Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch

I think that there is a lot in this book that is worthy of attention. Since my own spiritual paradigm has changed a lot in my life, I am always open minded to hearing new perspectives. I think that Mr. Walsch has some very good insights into the nature of god, some of which I agree with, and some of which I do not. Since this is a review blog and not one focused on my own internal philosophy or musings, I shall focus first on the nature of the book itself. The entire thing is essentially a platonic (in the sense of this is a literary device used by Plato betimes in The Republic) conversation between the author and God. As a character Walsch's god is both very human and very kind and wise. He has a different perspective than most, and also have very human traits like humor, whimsy and sarcasm. For the most part, the book does an excellent job of conveying the author's philosophy and the underlying tale. The underlying tale, such as it is, isn't much, in that it is basically that the author is down on his luck and washed up, and lost in life and that he has a voice in his head that calls itself God, with whom he converses on a piece of paper by asking all of the questions that he wanted to know. Walsch's idea of god and realize are spelled out piece by piece and bit by bit in a fashion that is internally logical and intruiging.

The thing that fascinated me most about Mr. Walsch's god is that it (since it claims to be neither masculine nor feminine) is the way it is and that humanity is the one constantly attributing traits to it. This does make sense largely, since a common theme of all the major spiritual texts of humanity is exactly this; God is the way He is, not the way he wants us to be. Like any pervasive spiritual philosophy, some of the hard questions are extremely vague. For example, at one point the text implies that there is no right or wrong or good or evil and that God isn't going to judge us. At the same time, the text implies that if we're really trying to be like God, we judge ourselves and that if we're really trying to be like It, we're going to be good people anyway. The book does do a fairly good job of finding the logical holes in most monotheistic faiths, particularly that, if God is a jerk, is He really worth worshiping and is it really fitting to play games of theological riddles that we have to solve for His convenience. I should note that I do not agree with all of these philosophies, but this is skillfully narrated in the book.

Still, while I do find elements of the philosophy quite interesting, I think this book is best read (from my perspective) as a philosophical tome rather than a spiritual one. Spiritually speaking, it might connect with you, but it will probably cause just as many questions as it will answer. Philosophically, I found its insights into the question of want (ie, if quit wanting for things and instead merely hope and strive for them, a subtle but important difference) and relationships (ie think of them as an opportunity to be your best self rather than a question of what you can get out of said relationship) to be extremely insightful and interesting. I recommend reading it, but I do so suggesting that it be done with a hearty grain of salt.

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