The approach to this book had the potential to blossom into a really outstanding oevre. Unfortunately, Neale Donald Walsch's "The Storm Before the Calm" falls short of the great promise of the title.
As an avid reader of Walsch's books, starting with his Conversation...-series, I did not hesitate to pre-order this book even before the german translation was available. Getting it in my hands, I devoted 1/2 of my holidays to read it - and found myself rather disappointed.
A low rating of a book of a renowned author sure deserves a detailed explanation. So - find here my considerations:
(1) The title
A good title is half the message. "The storm.." has such a title. Understanding, that we (i.e. mankind) are in a transition is reassuring the disturbed and opens the horizon for the searching mind. Thumbs up. Well done. Congratulations!
(2) The approach
In short, NDW argues that we can not go on like we have done in the past. Everybody knows, feels or fears that. So he brings in his experience, his conversations with god and his personal opinions to sketch a way out of the mess. I wholly agree to the approach. I also agree that intensifying, enhancing and deepening the past "solutions" will only aggravate the situation. New solutions are indispensable. Agreed.
(3) The message
I agree with about 70% of the recommendations, NDW offers. Some are great, some are ok, some are disputable, some are just plain nonsense. The main problem I identify here is the many gaps. There is no clear picture, no overall understanding of where we are and where we did come from.
Knowing where you are is not sufficient to define your way forward. You also need to know, where you have come from and why you are, where you are. You need to understand the situation to take effective measures. Otherways you are simply tinkering around.
From the book alone, it is not reasonably possible to decide, which factors of influence, which forces and relationships to take into account. This is one of the main shortcomings of this book.
Yes, of course, making more people aware of CwG, of the seemingly true (we are all divided, live just this life and need to compete) against the really true (we are all one, each of us is God, and we do not need to do anything, but are invited to collude with others in this earthly life) would help. But - does this book convince anybody? This brings me to point
(4) The audience
This book is a gospel written for believers. Or to cite Benjamin Franklin: "People who like this sort of thing will find it the sort of thing they like." This might have been a good and necessary approach for CwG. At that time, many latent "new-agers" needed encouragement to out themselves or to reassure themselves that they are neither crazy nor alone. But thanks to CwG and other books, we in the west are one step further. Now we need to address those who are open to the ideas like NDW's, but have not yet started thinking about. We need to reach out further to geht the impact we need.
To support the change, i.e. to convince more people to consider the thoughts of Walsch/CwG as a potential and reasonable alternative to classic religious/christian or materialistic/rationalist believe-systems we need to offer them some scientific, rock-hard and falsifiable proof. This is not delivered by the book under review.
The book will therefore not reach those, that need to be approached now. A severe limit to the impact this book needs to have.
(5) The text
I am not happy with the text. To me it is unsufficiently structured, the outline is not clear. Too many redundancies, fuzzy in the way the thoughts are ordered. It appears to me more like a shallow rippling of superficial thoughts than an orderly guidance for my thought processes, delivering insights and findings for my development.
And insights there are plenty! Scattered among repetitions, stories and considerations the reader will find deep truth, enthralling conclusions and handy metaphors. Some even slip below conscious filtering and pop up the next morning to change your way of thinking.
The problem is - unless you have already invested many hours working on such questions like who am I and how do I relate to others, it will be difficult to discern the pearls from the pebbles.
Reducing the the text to about 2/3 of its current lenght of about 300 pages, structuring the text according to the line of thought and enhancing it with some hard scientific background would multiply the value and impact of this book.
(6) The website
Part of the book is the website TheGlobalConversation. It is intended to foster the talks and discussions. Unfortunately the technical setup of this site does not allow for discussions, not even comments to previous postings. In fact, it is pre-organized, pre-ordered and pre-structured by Neale (or whoever does that for him).
The result is, that it looks more like a simple inbox of your email client. A list of isolated contributions ordered under various topics. This produces a kind of star-like topology, i.e. everything links to the title of the thread - full stop. This may be helpful for Neale to gather a lot of input, but life and thoughts are never stars or trees, they are always webs, where each input is linked to many others, forming clusters and hotspots.
The website therefore does not support discussions, dialogs or talks, but only single statements form individual contributors. Subject to the consideration (or ignorance) of the holy master himself. This, I believe, is NOT the way our future should be structured. And I am sure, it is NOT the way Neale Donald Walsch intends our future to become.
(7) The shortcomings
It would be unfair to criticise the shortcomings (from my point of view) without naming some of them. So here is, what I miss:
(7.1) Evolution (natural and cultural)
We humans are the product of 13.2 billion years of evolution. Whithout some pioneering stars turning into supernovae billions of years ago, this rocky planet circling a young sun would not even have the necessary higher chemical elements for our kind of life to form. The copper atoms essential for the hemoglobin in our blood to transport oxygen was formed in the inconceivable conditions of an exploding supernova. This copper is within each of us.
Each of us started as a single eucariotic cell, like bacteria still do. Each embryo develops through an abbreviated path of evolution, including phases with a tail and gills, that later get lost. The whole evolutionary track from bacteria to metazoa to fish to amphibians to mammals to primates is stored within each of us.
By way of genetic and epigenetic inheritance, each of us incorporates the condensed wisdom and experiences of millions of generations of ancestors. The amphibian and early vertebrate and early hominide legacy is in each of us.
Each of us re-enacts after birth the main stages of cultural evolution of man: Starting with being a purely natural being after birth (newborn babies perceive no difference between "themselves" and their mother), to the magic culture of the hunter-gather societies, where every tree, rock and creek has its own deity and magic rituals need to be performed, to the mythical societies of early civilizations (Babylon, Sumer, Assyrian) and - hopefully - to the rationalist culture started by the age of enlightenment.
All these "old" cultures are by no means overriden, but linger throughout our everyday life. To eat and drink, shower and have sex is basic natural culture. Whenever you curse or swear at something or somebody, you regress to magic. Each logo of your company, your name, your country's flag are magic symbols. Music appeals to your magic inheritance.
Hierarchies of all sorts, companies, countries with all their legends, the stories you read, the movies you see refer to your innate need for mythical input. Our whole politcal system including political parties, elections, courts and parliaments are purely mythical events, disguised as rational solutions to real problems.
The main point here is: It is not possible to get rid of all the legacy of our evolution. Ignoring the background of the elements that dictate today how the political and economic world ticks will lead us astray. It is NOT possible to put these elements aside or to replace them, as Neale suggests. It is, however, possible to recognize the mechanisms, to show to everybody why the world ticks as it does and then to enhance and overlay this existing system with new, rational and spiritual solutions.
The same mechanism applies to the spiritual evolution: As a small child, it's important to learn the good from the bad and you need to be judged and get punishment/reward on your behaviour (Level 1). When older, you need to learn, and then gauge your progress by the feedback of your teachers (Level 2). When you're grown up, you should not need anymore to be judged or taught, but you need to find your own way, experiment with and experience your life, based on the freedom that makes us human. After all, you are God.
BUT - It is NOT possible to be born on level 3. We all need to go through all the levels as mankind did in the past. We need to go through and then overcome the limitations the lower levels impose on our freedom. You may need support wheels to learn to bike. But you also need to remove them to become a master biker.
Onyl - To remain in level 1, fearing God (or your priest or your neighbours) would be immature for an adult. Those who transfer their personal freedom to a hierachical, mythical organization called church (or a political party, or a football team, or a company boss, or any other belief system) are not living up to their human potential. That most organisations strongly demand exactly such subjugation is no excuse for nobody.
(7.2) Systems theory
Analyzing the political-economic system we currently have in this world shows clearly that the development we see - the 1% vs. 99% problem, the corruption and decadence in the political system, the replacement of free democracy by media-directed pseudo-democracy - is inevitable. You can not stop or reverse this development any more than you can stop water from flowing downhill. Yes, you can with some effort prevent some water for some time at some places from flowing downhill. You may even reverse some of the natural flow. But in the end, water will win...
Systems theory fortunately tells us, that complex systems need not decay and fall to pieces, but may under some circumstances reach a stable state of higher complexity. It is, simply put, the difference between moving on an exponential function (that eventually must break down) or moving on a logistics function, that after startig exponentially finally flattens out on a higher level.
Dealing with one's self, e.g. turning from a "have" or "do"-focussed to a "be"-focussed approach to life, is not done by simply reading and understanding it. Whenever you want to change yourself, you need to convince or reprogram your sub-conscious. There is a whole body of knowledge about the neuro-linguistic mechanisms of programming the subconsicious mind.
Alternatively a spiritual approach called "Theta Healing" (Vianna Stibal) might help one to change deeply ingrained beliefs and whole belief systems.
Without these (and possibly other) tools the call for action of Neale Donald Walsch will most probably not be met.
Neale Donald Walsch has delivered a valuable book with a valuable approach and a great title. Its content falls in some relevant points short. It's impact is severely restricted by these shortcomings.
A new author presenting his first book would have merited 4 stars for this.
An ordinary author would still have gotten 3 stars from my side.
My expectations towards a book from an extraordinary author of the standing, experience and fame of a Neale Donald Walsch are of course much higher. Compared to that, two stars seem adequate.
Thomas Ernst, Switzerland
(Neale - should you ever read this, please consider it as an encouragement. I really appreciate your work!)