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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Conversations with Blog

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 (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.


I saw Darren Aronofsky’s new film, The Wrestler, last night. I’ve always been a big fan of his work, from Pi, to Requiem For A Dream. I fell asleep during The Fountain, but then it was the day after a stag party and probably not the best environment. But the guy is wise, spiritually aware.

His films, it seems to me, are often about compulsive behaviour in one form or another. He understands, better than any other film director, the extent to which humans become trapped in repetitive, compulsive and destructive routines, because those routines give them some short-term pay-off, which ultimately stops them from ever getting genuine fulfilment.

The best example of this is Requiem For A Dream, which creates a whole aesthetic of compulsiveness, via its famous ‘hip hop montage’ sequences, showing the fetishistic preparation and consumption of drugs – lining up the coke, snorting the coke, eyes dilated by the coke – repeated over and over.


Speeding up the various drug events and putting them altogether strips away the individual contexts in which the behaviour pattern hides, de-humanizes it, and exposes the sheer repetition and compulsion of it. In the words of Hot Chip: ‘over and over and over and over and over / like a monkey with a miniature cymbal / the joy of repetition really is in you’.

Compulsive behaviour is most obvious with drugs, but humans can be trapped in all sorts of destructive behaviour patterns. The Simpsons, for example, had a homage to Daronofsky in which Homer Simpson becomes addicted to a high calorie rib burger.


In The Wrestler, we meet two forms of self-destructive compulsion, in the two main characters, Randy the Wrestler and Pam the Stripper. Both of them are addicted to their public personae – the sexy stripper working it on stage to the wolf-whistles of the men, and the hard-boiled wrestler winning in the ring to the cheers of his adolescent fans.

These public personae have their cheap pay-offs – the desire or adulation of strangers – but they ultimately stop Randy and Pam from achieving real fulfilment, from engaging in genuine intimacy. But they’re both too addicted to the routine, they can’t step down off stage. They are trapped in a pattern.

Breaking out of such patterns usually means having the strength to do without the short-term pay-off in the hope and expectation of more fulfilling pay-offs in the future. So much of life comes down to the ability to defer short-term gratification in favour of longer-term pay-offs. You can call it the Protestant work ethic or whatever, but in some ways, it’s what distinguishes homo sapiens from other animals.

The tragedy is that this ability is only marginally developed in us. We get addicted to our delusions, addicted to our own legends, and end up killing ourselves for them.