Neale Donald Walsch, the author of the hugely-successful New Age franchise, Conversations with God, has been busted for plagiarism.
He wrote a post on his blog on www.beliefnet.com (the New Age spirituality site owned by Rupert Murdoch) in which he recounted an anecdote where he attended a christmas play at a girls’ school and the girls spelled out Christmas Love, with each girl holding up a letter, except the girl holding the M held it upside down, so it spelled out Christ Was Love.
Unfortunately, the anecdote was lifted almost word for word from an article by the writer Chandy Chand, as Walsch has now admitted. He has apologised, sort of:
“All I can say now – because I am truly mystified and taken aback by this – is that someone must have sent it to me over the internet ten years or so ago. Finding it utterly charming and its message indelible, I must have clipped it and pasted it into my file. I have told the story verbally so many times over the years that I had it memorized…and then, somewhere along the way, internalised it as my own experience. I am aghast at how improbable this sounds, even to me, yet I can find now other explanation…”
Well…you could have just nicked it, eh Neale, and tried to pass someone else’s work off as your own.
Conversations with God is not a bad book, and even inspiring in its New Age message that we are the divine, we create our own reality. But we don’t entirely create our own reality. Or at least, our conscious minds don’t. Sometimes, shit happens. You just have to deal with it. The New Age idea that we can wish everything to be perfect and Lo, It Will Be So, is overly optimistic.
I also find myself slightly uncomfortable with the New Age emphasis on spirituality and personal wealth as happy bedfellows. Conversations with God is a great example of this – God assures Neale that it’s perfectly OK to be extremely wealthy, that indeed, great wealth is part of spiritual fulfillment.
The book certainly made Walsch extremely wealthy. As did its sequel, and the sequel after that, and the entire New Age franchise that Walsch set up.
You see a similar fusion of spirituality with personal wealth in Paul McKenna. If you listen to the hypnosis CD that comes with McKenna’s Change Your Life in Seven Days, there’s a rather queasy moment when McKenna says in his slow Aussie drawl: ‘Imagine yourself with great personal wealth…see the money flowing towards you…Imagine a truly wealthy you.’
That’s the real difference between ancient philosophy and New Age spirituality – in the former, philosophy tries to rise up above materialism. In the latter, material success is taken as part of the blessings of self-realization.