Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

I’ve been asked to comment on Neale Donald Walsch. Walsch is a New Age guru who appears to have quite a following.

Perhaps the first thing to take note of is his birthdate. He was born in 1943. This means that he lived through the Sixties’ counterculture, and it shows.

I myself lived through the Sixties, although I was a precocious observer rather than an active participant. But as I sample his blog, most-all of his stuff is warmed over Summer-of-Luv sentiment and rhetoric.

Indeed, the “New Age” is an allusion to a pop song from the period—“the dawning of the age of Aquarius.” The New Age is a euphemism for the occult. This tends to go in cycles. The reason, I suppose, is that what is new to the younger generation is old hat for the older generation.

As I say, one period was the Sixties. The Beatles helped to popularize the occult through their dalliance with Hinduism. Another vehicle was Jonathan Livingstone Seagull—a deceptively innocuous fable that was a Trojan horse for the occult. It had a faddish following at the time. Then you also had astrologically-themed pop songs from the rock musical Hair.

Carlos Castaneda also did a lot to popularize shamanism—which began with Max Weber. While we’re at it, we could toss Timothy Leary, Edgar Cayce, Rosemary’s Baby, Anton LaVey, Jungian psychology, and Mircea Eliade into this witch’s brew (pun intended).

The Sixties was a period rife with utopian, millenarian pretensions. A lot of hippies really thought they were going to usher in the golden age through acid, nudism, and rock music. Strawberry fields forever.

Another, earlier phase was Victorian theosophy, represented by the likes of Alister Crowley, Annie Besant, Mme Blavatsky, Bulwer-Lytton, Alfred Wallace, W. B. Yeats, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and so on and so forth.

This, in turn, was a throwback to “Christian” cabbalism and the revival of interest in the occult during the Renaissance, as exemplified by Pico della Mirandola, Giordano Bruno, et al. And this is all of a piece with the hermetic tradition.

The occult presents itself as a liberation movement, but it’s just another form of bondage. If you study the history of these movements, the idealistic sales-pitch has an ugly underbelly. Here’s some background literature on the subject:

David Berlinski, The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky: Astrology and the Art of Prediction (Harcout 2003).

Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett, A History of the Occult Tarot: 1870-1970 (Duckworth 2002).

Duane Garrett, Angels and the New Spirituality (B&H 1995).

Peter Jones, Spirit Wars (Winepress Publishing, 1997)

Gary North, Unholy Spirits: Occultism and the New Age Humanism (Institute for Christian Economics, 1988)

Van Akin Burd, Ruskin, Lady Mount-Temple and the Spiritualists (Brentham Press, 1982).

Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (University Of Chicago Press, 1991)
_____, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (Routledge, 2001)
_____, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (Routledge, 2001)

I’ll be quoting and commenting on some excerpts from Walsch’s blog:

One revealing admission he makes is the following statement:

“I knew Elizabeth Kübler-Ross well. I worked on her staff in the 1980s.”

Kübler-Ross was a Swedish psychiatrist who made a big splash in the late Sixties (and beyond) with her pioneering work on NDEs. This, of itself, is a legitimate field of study. NDEs are a fairly modern phenomenon because it’s only advances in medical science that make it possible to resuscitate a certain percentage of clinically dead patients. Before then, there wasn’t much occasion to even deal with the issue of NDEs.

Unfortunately, she crossed over into necromancy and trafficking with “spirit-guides.” Here she spells out her position in an interview:

KÜBLER-ROSS: The third reason why you cannot die alone is that you have a guardian angel. This spiritual guide-who's assigned to you and to you alone-helps you during your life, trying every means he or she can to keep you on course, so that you will do what you've committed yourself to do in this lifetime. When you die, you'll meet this guardian angel and experience instant recognition along with the greatest love you've ever felt.

Reincarnation was taught in Christianity for hundreds of years. The teaching of it was eventually forbidden by the First Ecumenical Council, for purely political reasons. And the Bible is full of references to guardian angels!

PLOWBOY: But most orthodox Christians also have a vision of damnation in their picture of the universe. In fact, Jesus himself referred to the fires of hell.

KÜBLER-ROSS: I believe that was symbolic language! It was meant to describe the fact that you will be so sorry when you review your life and see how many times you were given chances to live, to give to share ... but looked away. It's my contention that God is all love: made up of so much love you cannot even conceive of it.

Yet many so-called Christians judge other people. And many churches use fear and guilt to fill their pews. Why? Christianity teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It does not discriminate or condemn. Christ, by his example, was the best teacher of unconditional love imaginable. He accepted and loved and healed and worked ... everywhere he went. He didn't ask people whether they attended such and such a church before helping them!

Regarding reincarnation, I assume that Kübler-Ross is alluding to the Gnostic apocrypha. Her theological revisionism was probably facilitated by the liberal Lutheranism of her native land. Some of this also dovetails with Swedenborg. As for guardian angels, read Garrett (see above).

If you compare her statements with Walsch’s blog, you’ll see how much they have in common. So what are we to make of Walsch? It could be that he’s just a greedy flimflam man. Or it could be that he really is in contact with the dark side.

I’d add that these are not mutually exclusive interpretations. It’s possible to be both a medium and a charlatan. The dark side can feed a medium just enough tantalizing “insights” to get him hooked. Then he has to pad out the rest.

Regarding his putative source of information, he makes the following claim:

“’Channeling’, as I understand it, is the process by which a disembodied entity or spirit is ‘brought through’ a physical being. This would not be a description of what is occurring with me when I am having my conversations with God. I have called my experience ‘inspired writing.’ I think this is a much more accurate description of exactly what is occurring.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t a terribly clear explanation. “Inspired writing,” in this setting, could be synonymous with “automatic writing”—which was standard practice in Victorian theosophy. Automatic writing is a form of channeling.

So how should we interpret his claim? On the one hand, it’s quite possible that he really is in contact with the dark side. On the other hand, if he’s truly “inspired,” even in the diabolical sense of the term, then it’s a little odd that the dark side is leaking information which bears an uncanny resemblance to the hackneyed themes of the Psychedelic Sixties, viz. peacenik oratory, the Sexual Revolution, &c. Old Horney needs to hire a new batch of screenwriters.

Why does “inspiration” sound so much like a tribal love-rock musical or coca-cola commercial? I’ve heard this sort of thing before, way back when I was a kid.

When the moon is in the Seventh House
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

When the moon is in the Seventh House
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

As our hearts go beating through the night
We dance unto the dawn of day
To be the bearers of the water
Our light will lead the way

We are the spirit of the age of Aquarius
The age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
Angelic illumination
Rising fiery constellation
Traveling our starry courses
Guided by the cosmic forces
Oh, care for us; Aquarius


I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow-white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
(That's the song I hear)
I'd like to see the world for once
(Let the world sing today)
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land
That's the song I hear
(That's the song I hear)
Let the world sing today
(Let the whole wide world keep singing)
A song of peace that echoes on
And never goes away

(Repeat 1st stanza and Chorus)

Put your hand in my hand
Let's begin today
Put your hand in my hand
Help me find a way

Moving along, one of the messages that “God” gave him is moral nihilism. Here are some samples:


The New Spirituality says that there is no such thing as right and wrong. There is only what works and what does not work in any moment, circumstance, or situation, and given what it is that you are trying to do.

There is nothing that is permanent. There is nothing that stays. Everything goes…There are no restrictions anymore. You can do anything you wish, say anything you wish, think anything you wish, because you're not trying to hold onto anything anymore. What's the point? You can't hold onto it anyway. It's all going to go away. In the end, if not before.

The Holy Experience is knowing this. Each moment becomes truly holy, because each moment ends. It cannot be held onto forever. Not a single moment can. Therefore, every single moment is sacred.

Because God is totally loving, God is totally accepting - for pure love is the rejection of nothing. Pure love is unconditional. In fact, all love in unconditional. Anything less than that is not love, but some counterfeit version of that.

Because love is unconditional, it accept everything. It does this by making no value judgments whatsoever. It does not call one thing good and another thing bad. A thing simply is. This is what CwG calls the Isness, and Isness has no goodness or badness to it.

Where we get into trouble in our lives is by attaching goodness or badness to a thing. We make value judgments, and those judgments create enormous difficulty for many reasons - not the least of which is that we keep changing them. One day we call a thing good and the next day we call the very same thing bad, depending on whether the thing we are judging serves our purposes or not.

Killing is another example. We think we have an absolute Right and an absolute Wrong around this, but the truth is, we can't make up our mind until we know and understand what the killing is for. Killing in self-defense, as an example, may not be called good, but most people and societies agree that it is not bad. So we find a third word. It may be, we say, necessary.

That means it is required in order for us to do what it is we want to do.
It is because of this reasoning that we call all attack a defense. In this way, we can morally justify it. Yet what if nothing in the world had to be morally justified?


The serial rapist and murder would appreciate Walsch’s pragmatism. He gets orgasmic pleasure out of torturing a coed to death. That “works” for him.

Of course, there are some internal tensions in this message. For if nothing is good or evil, then there’s no obligation to be loving or accepting, even as he defines love or acceptance.

And this tension comes out into the open as we read some of his other statements:


Do we really want to set up what amounts to the Morals Police? Do we really want to have our "undercover officers" sitting in stalls of men's rooms across America and "acting as if" they were ready and willing to engage in a sexual experience -- just to see who we can trap into responding to such a blatant invitation? Is this the proper role of the guardians of society? Is this the proper function of government?

Yet if government is not the proper vehicle through which societies ills are cleaned up, what is? Might it be a new cultural story altogether? A story that tells us that our sexuality need not be shameful -- even our sexual attraction to people of the same gender -- and therefore need not be hidden in dark places and sought out in furtive exchanges in our public restrooms?

And, of course. this is the same kind of thinking that allows terrorists and governments which act like terrorists to strike out at people all over the world -- innocent people, people with no ax to grind, people creating no trouble whatsoever, people wishing only for a joyous, creative, fulfilling, and peaceful existence -- killing them ruthlessly, with an utter disrespect for life.

Is this all part of the human condition? Is there nothing that can be done to turn the tide of such primitive behaviors? What kinds of beliefs could possibly form the basis of a value system that would not only allow, but actually recommend, violence as a course of action in the face of differing points of view -- and even in the face of what people on one side or the other of a disagreement would call "oppression"? Is there simply no way to heal this aspect of humanity's collective experience?

Once again, religious intolerance rears its ugly, ugly head. Once again, humanity has reminded itself just how far it has come (not very far), and just how far it has to go in the evolution of its species. Only a few days ago Pope Benedict XVI declared to all the world that the Most Holy Roman Catholic Church is the only one true Church in all the world, that all other churches are invalid, and that even other Christian denominations are "faulty." The Pope said that no other church offered a pathway to salvation. This is as much as saying that all people on the planet except Roman Catholics are going to hell.

This kind of behavior -- the "proclamation" of the Pope, the righteousness of those demonstrators in the Senate chamber -- is the shame of many Christians. I am aware (at least, I hope I am right about this) that the vast majority of Christians do not embrace or endorse such thoughts and feelings and beliefs.


But if there is no right or wrong, then why does he disapprove of the “Morals Police”? If there is no right and wrong, why does he disapprove of wanton violence? If there is no right and wrong, why does he disapprove of religious intolerance?

Besides, not all violence is wanton violence. What about cases in which violence is expedient? I see something I want, so I mug the victim. Murder him to eliminate the witness to the crime. That works in my situation—given what it is that I’m trying to do. What could be more practical?

Walsch is just another amoral moralist. A one-sided moral relativist. You and I are not allowed to be judgmental, but he is free to be judgmental.


“Dawkins has created quite a stir with his book, which he has titled The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), and it is easy to understand why. He offers in his text virtually irrefutable arguments and clear-cut scientific evidence that the ancient God of organized religions simply does not exist.”

Irrefutable? Seems to me that Dawkins’ “irrefutable arguments” have been refuted many times over. For starters, check out the following material:


“I agree with Richard Dawkins that God is not a SuperBeing in the Sky, angry, vindictive, and violent except with those He loves because they love Him – in the way He wants and needs them to love Him. Richard has pulled all the stops to debunk that particular notion, to which I say bravo.”

Of course, this is a caricature of Biblical theism, but even if it were accurate, why is Walsch rendering a value-judgment on the morality of Biblical theism? A moral nihilist is in no position to moralize about Biblical theism.

Moreover, he told us that pragmatism is his yardstick. Well, Christianity “works” for hundreds of millions of Christians.

“I also agree with the wonderful professor that God is not some sort of Top-Down-Power Over-Highest Life From who spends his days and nights witnessing and judging our every thought, word, and deed, granting or failing to grant our requests (based on some wholly unknown criteria), and punishing or rewarding us at the end of our lives (based on equally incomprehensible measures).”

What he is caricaturing in the notion of divine justice. That God rights the scales of justice. Evildoers who escape retribution in this life get their comeuppance in the afterlife—while the righteous, who suffer in justice in this life, are rewarded in the afterlife.

It’s only a pampered liberal like Walsch, who’s led a charmed existence in a country with a tradition of Christian ethics, who has the luxury of scoffing at justice—having suffered no grave injustice himself. Finally:


I believe in God because I have had a conversation with God. That is, I have had an inner dialogue with an essence and a source that has brought forth information I would never, could never, have dreamt of on my own. That conversation has made it clear to me that God is a process – the process of Life Itself—and that, therefore, the words God and Life are interchangeable.

Yet I am also saying that God can be used to produce those results intentionally. God is therefore not only a Process, but a Mechanism. A Device with which to produce (or make manifest) physical realities and physical outcomes. A Tool with which to seemingly create out of thin air.

You are the expression of life itself. So is everything around you. Even so-called inanimate objects are found, when examined under a microscope, to consist of particles constantly in motion. These particles and their movements are all part of life. Indeed, everything in the observable universe is life, in some form.

You are the expression of God itself. So is everything around you. Even so-called inanimate objects are found, when examined under a microscope, to consist of particles constantly in motion. These particles and their movements are all part of God. Indeed, everything in the observable universe is God, in some form.


The problem with all this is that it isn’t possible to have a conversation with a process or mechanism or inanimate object. You can talk to plants and swear at malfunctioning appliances, but they don’t talk back—unless you count prerecorded sound bites.

The only difference between Walsch and the longhaired hippies of the Aquarian age is that Walsch is a white-haired hippy. It didn’t usher in the golden age 40-years ago. Why would it work today?


  1. Just a correction: Kubler-Ross was Swiss born, not Swedish, and therefore probably not Lutheran, liberal or otherwise. Probably Reformed actually, although doubtless only nominal.

  2. It would help to look at the Hippie thing in the broader context of archetypes of transcendence HERE
    and of ascendenceHERE