Chapter Four of WHAT GOD SAID
NOTE: If you have not read previous installments, it will make sense to scroll down to the lower entries and read them from the “bottom up.” In this way, you will be encountering the material as it appears in the book. — NDW
There is good news here. Today, as the world faces economic crises, political upheaval, civil unrest, societal breakdown, environmental degradation, spiritual confusion, ongoing conflict and war, people everywhere are finding the courage to not leave their religious beliefs alone. They are searching for new guideposts, new insights, new answers, new ways of being human.
Most important of all, a small but growing number of people are now yearning for new ways of understanding and relating to God, because they have come to a new awareness that humanity’s ideas about God greatly impact, and in some cases even create, its ideas about humanity itself, about who we are in relationship to each other, and about how Life works.
And it is clear now—today more than ever, because of our ability to see ourselves, to communicate with our entire world, in an instant—that some of our old ideas are no longer functional.
It is doubtful that they were ever functional, but it didn’t matter in the past. Not on a global scale. Because things kept going. Life went on. But now, things can’t keep going anymore. Not as they have been. Too much is known by too many too fast. Our old ways of doing things, our old ways of being, are no longer even considered partially functional by part of the world. And this is what people everywhere are beginning at last to acknowledge. In the past, one place on the Earth could hide its dysfunction from another place. Now, we all know everything about what’s going on everywhere. This makes dysfunction harder to hide—and harder for the world at large to tolerate.
Too many of us are seeing our self-inflicted wounds. And we’re also seeing that we’re running out of Band-Aids. We can’t just keep patching everything together.
We’re running out of fertile soil in which to plant our crops. We’re running out of cooler, damper climate to stop our Earth from parching. We’re running out of pure water. We’re running out of clean air. And we’re running out of ways to ignore all of this.
We’re running out of money to make things better. We’re running out of time in which to do it. Worst of all, some people are running out of the will to do it, as they sink deeper and deeper into fear and frustration, thinking that the only solution is to turn on each other rather than to each other.
This Group Does Not Include You
You’re not among those who believe this, or you would never have picked up this book. You’re among those who are clear that it’s not too late to change this—even if you don’t exactly know what part you can play in doing it. (More on that later.) What you do know is that what must be accomplished now is the complete overhaul of our way of being.
Not a small task, but not impossible. Our species has experienced such a complete re-creation of itself before—a renaissance, a rebirth, if you will. And this renaissance need not take three hundred years. It can be accomplished in one-tenth the time, precisely because of the instantaneous and transparent nature of our modern-day communication—a condition that I call instaparency.
I want to suggest that our turnaround might best begin with a new writing, an expansion, of our cultural story, of the words that we tell ourselves about ourselves, of the lessons we teach our children about the reason and purpose for Life itself, and—most important of all—of the narratives we share with everyone about what we call “God.”
This is where the power lies. This is where the leverage is. This is where we find the fuel that drives the engine of the human experience.
Yet what new Divinely inspired addition to our hallowed human story could capture our attention and cause us to even consider changing our age-old behaviors? That is the question. What new ideas from God could be as powerful and as inspiring, as exciting and as motivating as those of Lao Tzu or of Buddha; of Moses or of Jesus; of Muhammad or of Krishna? What expansion of our story could be as moving, as life-impacting, and as experience-changing as the messages of the belief systems and religions to which the followers of those teachers gave birth?
That has been the key question for a very long time. What new ideas could expand our ancient story sufficiently to offer brand new possibilities for an entire species?
It’s Not About Rejection or Abandonment
I come here to respectfully suggest that the contemporary ideas of what I have come to call the New Spirituality might offer one outline for those additions. They could at least offer a basis for opening discussions, for beginning explorations.
This will not happen, however, if people see such explorations as a rejection or abandonment of humanity’s Ancient Story, for we hold that story dear to our hearts—as well we should. It has, after all, gotten us this far.
So it should be made clear at the outset that Conversations with God never suggests such a thing. Indeed, it makes the opposite point: Much of what has been given to us by our world’s religions is valuable and good. That is why religion itself has lasted so long. If religions have produced conflict between people, it is not because their teachings are “wrong” but because they may be incomplete.
It is my observation that many human beings are as children who have learned to add and subtract but have not yet heard about multiplication and long division (to say nothing of geometry, trigonometry, and calculus), yet they think they know all there is to know about mathematics.
There may be much more to be revealed about God and about Life than we now assume, and I believe it is a mistake to imagine that we have in hand everything there is to know on these subjects.
The intention of Conversations with God is not, therefore, to reject wholesale or completely abandon humanity’s old ideas about the Divine and about Life, but to add to, build on, extend, widen, broaden, deepen, clarify, and enrich our Ancient Story.
Ending the Blockade
There is no need for this expansion of our original understanding to generate rage, much less block us forever as we seek to move forward on our spiritual voyage, any more than expanded scientific, medical, or technical understandings have blocked us forever from advancing in our evolutionary journey.
Yes, there have been some stumbling blocks, there have been some delays, on the evolutionary journey of science, medicine, and technology, but nothing that we allowed to stop us completely. It took us a while to admit that the sun did not revolve around the Earth; it took us a while to acknowledge that washing our hands before delivering babies would decrease infant mortality; it took us a while to “get” that computers need not pose a threat to human beings; but ultimately we embraced these and other advancements and stepped forward.
We didn’t throw out the whole of our scientific knowledge to accept a new discovery, we didn’t throw out the whole of our medical knowledge to adopt a new procedure, we didn’t throw out the whole of our technical knowledge to apply a new development. We simply enfolded the new within the old, allowing ourselves to modify and expand our understandings, and then we marched on, all the better for it.
It is time now for us to do the same with religion.
— from the book What God Said by Neale Donald Walsch. (Berkley Books-Oct 2013- orders may be placed at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and other online bookstores. The book is also being placed here, in previews, chapter by chapter.)