Peddling Shortcuts to Enlightenment Is Dishonest Pandering

Head shot of Neale Donald Walsch

Neale Donald Walsch

I found myself today reacting negatively to an email I received from Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations With God series of books. I started out as a big fan of this apparently wise man but in recent years, like so many of his contemporaries, he seems to have become caught up in the so-called “prosperity Gospel” and focused on how to leverage his fading reputation to make more money.

But that motivation wasn’t what caused my latest reaction. Nor is this confined to Walsch; in fact, he is merely the latest to join a tidal wave of “get-spiritual-quick” schemers with whom I have no patience.

The opening paragraph of Walsch’s email says, “What if you could find a way to leap directly beyond everything that stands between you and your highest evolutionary potential?”

Yeah, what if you could do that? Avoid all the messiness of living one or more actual human existences; experiencing Life in all of its many dimensions and glories, pain and bliss; spending long hours over many years meditating and reflecting on your Inner Consciousness? What if there were a simple Enlightenment Pill (or, as Walsch said, a process, which is a key internet marketing buzzword these days). Pop the right-colored pill and, voila!, enlightenment happens!

As you read further in this email, you find out that Walsch is introducing the work of another spiritual teacher named Craig Hamilton. And what he’s promoting is, I’m certain, another of the myriad bait-and-switch “free webinars” that turn out to be extended sales pitches for something — usually fairly expensive — that the two of them have teamed up to sell you. (I know how these things work, as you may as well, from lots of personal experiences.)

So Walsch comes off, in this email at least, like a spiritual huckster interested in conning me out of my time and money with the false promise of Instant Enlightenment.

I have no problem with spiritual teachers marketing themselves and their teachings. Indeed, it’s the only way in today’s high-noise  world to ensure your message is heard. I’m living proof that a failure or refusal to market one’s self does not lead to riches. Fortunately for me, that was never my spiritual goal.

But I wonder if people like Walsch recognize how badly they damage their hard-earned credibility and reputation for wisdom and insight when they resort to ordinary, transparent pandering. And I wonder how they feel about those they dupe into a false sense of Enlightenment with their unfounded and even fake claims. Is this how a spiritual teacher treats his or her students? Is spirituality, after all, no different from vitamins or beauty care products or weight loss programs, commodities to be foisted off on an unsuspecting public using propaganda techniques developed in World War II Germany and perfected by America’s advertising industry?


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