Update on the future of this web site

Sunday, 18 April, 2004:

      I am considering removing the entire Spirit Dialogues web site at some time in the somewhat indefinite future: the dialogue pages which form the bulk of the site, and all associated pages. That is, more precisely, all files in the subdirectory on my web site called Spirit. This amounts to the contents page "Spirit.htm", the Introduction page, all the dialogue files with dates as their titles, and the several pages of Glossary terms, defining concepts I have used in the dialogues.
      The dialogues were (I regret that, in all truth, I have to use the past tense now) an attempt to explore my own spiritual understanding, following in the wake of various New-Age events I attended in the early 1990s, and a channelled message I received from a Master called Sananda; and I placed them on my web site because I thought there may be a few people who would find reading them helpful, or at least interesting. I know of one person who expressed a strong interest in reading them, and actually asked me please not to remove the pages; but I do not yet know if she did ever actually read any of them. (People are busy, and she has a lot in her life; so, even if she hasn't read them, it may not mean she wasn't interested.)
      Owing to depression, made worse by the onset of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) a few years ago, my spiritual life, any idea that there may be any truth to spirituality, is eroding away, and being replaced by a nihilistic, materialist outlook on life. I mean "materialist" in the philosophical sense of looking at life on the premise that the material world is all that exists, or at least all that can be demonstrated (objectively or subjectively) to exist. I don't mean so much "materialist" in the commonn sense of letting purely material affairs dominate your life more - although possibly that is happening more in my life, too, as something - almost anything will do - has to fill the vacuum left by the weakening of my spiritual outlook.
      I do not consciously proclaim that I am adopting this bleaker, almost spirit-denying view of life, and still think about the broader spiritual outlook, and try to hold onto some remnants of it - but, in spite of myself, I cannot help my viewpoint shifting towards that nihilistic outlook; and that probably is my main outlook now, at least as far as the actual forces are concerned that decide the way I live life, if not what I consciously claim to believe.
      If you are tempted to tell me not to be so negative, and not to let the worries of this life or any health problems weaken my spiritual outlook, I can assure anyone who has not suffered tinnitus that five minutes of ringing in the ears shatters any belief in a spiritual element to life, and saps away any sense of purpose or motivation in life. That's true, even counting purpose or motivation just in an ordinary practical way; it's even truer still when considered from a spiritual point of view, which quickly comes to seem false and irrelevant, even if I try to go through the motions of holding onto it. If this is not true for some other sufferers of this condition (not to mention sufferers of far worse conditions), then all I can say is that they are far stronger, more perceptive persons than I am. (What keeps someone like Christopher Reeve or Stephen Hawking going, I cannot even begin to imagine - it is unfathomable to me.)
      Under these circumstances, the dialogues which I wrote in all sincerity and openness just seem almost phoney now, and I cannot maintain any sort of practice of continuing to write them - as the dates of the most recent dialogues will suggest (the most recent one in 2001, with no likelihood that I can see at present of ever being able to write another one). The optimistic spiritual outlook the dialogues advocate seems more and more phoney to me, even almost hypocritical in a way, and I am increasingly having my doubts as to whether I want to continue representing on the web that I seriously entertain this outlook. The problem is not that I dislike the outlook or feel uneasy being associated with it now; rather, it is just that I feel somewhat less than honest representing a view I still like, but don't feel is all that likely to be anything more than a fantasy. At times, it can seem nothing more than a great big self-indulgent wank - a kind of spiritual masturbation, if you want to be brutally frank.
      I get various e-mails from people reading my other web pages, wanting to ask questions about books or authors I mention; but I have only received one e-mail from a reader of one of the dialogues - and that was because he read the bit where I mentioned that I had tinnitus, and he had it himself, and wanted to talk about it with me - something I wasn't sure I wanted to do; but he seemed a friendly fellow, and I appreciated his desire to reach out to me, and wrote to him anyway from time to time. But I have no idea whether he was interested in the dialogues themselves; he did actually refer to metaphysical issues in some of his messages, but didn't refer directly to anything the dialogues talked about.
      So I believe either that almost no-one even reads those pages; or else that, if they do, they find them sufficiently uninteresting that they never feel moved to write to me about them. This is also contributing to my considering removing the pages - as well as the fact that my allocated web-site space is full, and I am tempted to make room for other things I want to do on the site.
      If you access the pages while they are still available, and wish to refer to them again at a future time, I strongly suggest you save your own copies of them, or else search for archived copies at http://www.archive.org, a site which is embarking on the stupdendous task of attempting to archive the entire web, and all past versions of web sites, too. However, the copies of pages kept by them are likely to be out of date - especially if I remove the pages, so they cannot update their own copies. (I might still change the pages for my own reference, even if I decide to remove them from the web. I don't change the substance of dialogues, but I do correct errors or poor wording that I see, and I do occasionally add footnotes to further elaborate on any point that it occurs to me needs it.) For the time being, you can reach the front page of the Dialogues web site at http://www.foxall.com.au/users/mje/Spirit/Spirit.htm.
      If at a future time you find you've missed out, and get only this page (or a similar one saying that the pages have already been removed), and badly want to read those dialogues, you can e-mail me to request that I send you a copy. In that event, I would appreciate some indication of why you are interested to read the dialogues: if I remove them, it will be because I've decided to limit their exposure, and I might not at that stage wish to share them with those who might be hostile or unreceptive to what I say in them. Naturally, I will feel flattered at your requesting a copy of the pages, and will quite likely e-mail you the dialogues - unless I get the impression that you merely want to find fault with the sometimes heretical (from a Christian point of view) views I express, with a view to evangelizing me or trying to "save my soul".
      (Don't bother - over the years, I've discussed issues quite extensively and open-mindedly with believers from various Christian churches or groups, and have seriously considered all the arguments - and so far rejected them, not finding them convincing. I very rarely hear a genuinely new argument in favour of various orthodox Christian doctrines, or even in favour of a more liberal approach to Christianity, and for all practical purposes I have decided that I cannot find Christianity credible so far, and am therefore unlikely (barring a miracle, or at least a genuinely unforeseeable change in my way of thinking) to become a Christian - so it would take something genuinely new now to make me rethink my position.)
      Even while the dialogues are still there (I am only thinking about removing them now - not planning immediately to do so yet - my thoughts on this are something that has to evolve), I might be encouraged to leave them there if I get a few e-mails from readers telling me that they found the dialogues interesting or useful, and why. The total lack of feedback is part of what's making me see the dialogues as a mere fantasy, as nothing more than talking to the wind about things that no-one other than myself is interested in, anyway.

Tuesday, 20 April, 2004:

      Within hours of my writing the above, something has happened to stay my hand in removing the Dialogues web pages. I was only stating a possible intention in the vague future - not an immediate intention planned for a specific date. This event was nothing earth-shattering - quite trivial in a way - but it almost seemed like a message of some sort not to remove the Dialogues web site, and it at least makes me think further about it. Let me explain - for anyone who may be interested. A little background is necessary first....

      I like to buy books related to Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God series. This began as a single book containing a long conversation between the author and God, then became a trilogy; then further books followed, including several ancillary works that are not themselves dialogues, but are based on the concepts developed in the dialogues.
      There are many interesting ideas in those books which Walsh presents (or which God presents, if we accept on face value the premise behind the books that God and Walsch are having a conversation). However, I think there are also quite a few things said in those books which I disagree with, or at least have great difficulty accepting - either emotionally or intellectually. However, in spite of that, there's much I like in those books - including the vision of a totally loving, non-judgemental, non-violent, non-punishing God, promoted by so few religions, it seems - so that's why I like to buy these books. In fact, I find I have not so far been able to read large portions of them at once, because passages can seem rather vague or wordy; but there is that central vision in there which attracts me; and I would say that the spiritual outlook there is probably more akin to my own than that found in any other religion, teaching, or book that I have so far encountered, in spite of all the differences of outlook, all the things I am unable to accept. (Needless to say, what that means is that there is no religion or spiritual outlook or tradition that I whole-heartedly agree with, and no spiritual community at all that I've found so far that I am able to feel part of - and it does feel very lonely at times.)
      And of course the dialogue format in many of my own web pages bears an obvious superficial resemblance in format to that in the C.w.G. books, even though the tone is very different, and (I think) the ideas presented also. So far, however, I have not had the nerve (or perhaps the presumption, or the breadth of thinking - depending on your viewpoint) to label the part in the dialogues other than myself as said by God, as Walsch has done: rather, I first labelled those parts with what I used as the name of my Higher Self ("Bivalia"), and later as "Higher Self" and "Spirit". But I realize, as writing the dialogues has caused my ideas about God to change, that really that part was effectively God speaking, or a portion of God (as I perceive God to be) speaking those parts, trying to guide me. (Maybe it wasn't really God (or Spirit, or my Higher Self), and maybe I was simply using the dialogue format as a literary device to explore ideas. It doesn't matter - the dialogues themselves discuss that issue a couple of times, and leave it undecided.)
      And I might point out that I got the idea for these dialogues years before I was even aware of Walsch's books - so there is no question that, even unconsciously, I ripped off the idea of writing such dialogues from Walsch. If anyone thinks I did, or even merely that writing such dialogues is Walsch's idea, and should be left to him, I would point out that Australian broadcaster Terry Lane has also written a book-length "Interview with God". And I would respond further with a comment from Lane's book. (Lane is an atheist, and used the dialogue idea satirically and humorously as a platform to argue effectively that God doesn't exist - but managed to be quite perceptive at times, in spite of that. If I were to compile a list of spiritual books that have influenced me, I would not hesitate to include this one.)
      At one point in the book Lane said that various people had been critical of his presumption in writing an interview with God, and that they had disagreed with some of what he had God say in the book (as Walsch has also similarly been criticized); and Lane responded to the effect, "Well, if you don't like it, go and write your own interview with God" - which was, I think, a very good response, and a very good idea for anyone to follow.
      I can scarcely think of anything better for a person to do in exploring and refining their spiritual ideas than to write a dialogue with God - even if they think it is not God really speaking to them, but that they are just making it up (although presumably basing it on their real perceptions of God and of spirituality).
      And it also underlines the idea which I know my dialogues promote, and with which I am sure Walsch would whole-heartedly agree: namely, that I, or Walsch, or Lane, or anyone else, are not in some kind of exclusive, exalted position or state of enlightenment that gives us the right to claim to write a dialogue with God. If such people as the ones I named are unusual, it is only that they have chosen (or perhaps been inspired) to do something which very few people do - namely, to write a dialogue with God (or, in my own case, with a spiritual entity that I tend to associate with God). But of course I would think anyone could do it if they wanted to - and do it with just as much authority as those few who have done it. I would in fact regard it as the birth-right of any person at all to use this method as one way of gaining contact (or closer contact) with the God they believe in, or want to believe in.

      Anyway, back to what happened to stay my hand, at least a little while, in deleting my dialogue web pages. On Sunday, only hours after I posted on my web site the announcement above, I visited (along with other members of my family) my brother near rural Yarragon, east of Melbourne, where (or close to which, in my own case) most of our family live. Late in the afternoon, some of us went a mile or so into the little town of Yarragon, had something to drink, and looked at the shops there, many of which are little arty, crafty types of shops.
      And in a small art gallery, I saw a range of books on the shelves, and, almost by instinct, I examined the titles which were there. A glance showed that they were mainly New-Age types of books: alternative health, crystals, angels, New-Age spirituality, and so on. And I noticed two books by Neale Donald Walsch which I didn't have, and which I wasn't even aware had been written. And I took a quick look at them, and decided to buy them, since I like to have his books.
      One of these was a new conversation-with-God style of book called Tomorrow's God; and the other was a book of true stories sent in by people who have had their life beneficially touched by God, or Spirit in some form; and it is called Moments of Grace - which is the phrase Walsch uses to refer to these moments in which Spirit touches our lives.
      I haven't read much of either book yet; but I have read a few chapters, and some of the introductory and concluding material in each. And both books had passages that seemed almost to be urging me, personally, not to remove my Dialogues web site.
      Well, of course there was no paragraph that actually said that to me, in so many words. But the passages, although of necessity more general than that, had obvious application to the matter of my web site - especially since, just a day or two before I read this advice, I had been thinking about that.
      Tomorrow's God appears (so far as I've seen so far) to be about how we need, as a species, to change our ideas of God to a totally loving and accepting God, and away from the punitive, violent, vengeful, fearful God that most religions promote - a subject very close to my own heart, and probably one of the two or three big spiritual issues in my whole life. Walsch called this new spirituality he is promoting the Civil Rights Movement for the Soul.
      The violence of most ideas of God is almost the central God issue to me, and is the main reason I feel totally alienated from all organized religions that I've heard about. And there is a Afterword in the book (yes, I'm the kind of person who reads Forewords and Afterwords before the main part of the book itself) in which Walsch urges his readers not to just put the book down after reading it, and forget about what it says after a few days. He urges everyone with whom this new idea of God resonates to promote that idea in whatever way comes to them: not to convert people or convince them of anything, not to be evangelistic - but to speak their thoughts when appropriate, to free themselves and those around them of the belief in an angry, punishing God.
      And of course, the instant I read this, it occurred to me that this is something I believe in doing; and also that my Dialogues web site acts on this more than anything else I do or say. I don't know who reads it (or if anyone does at all) - but it is there for anyone to find; it can be found in the Google search engine by searching for words that appear prominently in the dialogues. People must stumble on my pages by accident occasionally, as they search for words in Google. For instance, I feel pretty sure there are plenty of researchers into shellfish who know at least of the existence of my dialogues: quite likely they sometimes search for pages about "Bivalia", which is the Higher-Self name I was once guided to use, which appears in many of the dialogues - and which (I found out years later) happens also to be the taxonomic name for a class of mussels and clams (bivalves). If you enter "Bivalia" in Google, you'll see listed a number of pages about shellfish - and a whole list of pages headed "MJE Spirit" (Google presumptuously removed the full-stops after my initials in their listing), followed by a date. I bet a few jokes have been cracked about this by some of these scientists.
      So probably people do get to see my pages occasionally. Perhaps most quickly leave upon seeing what is there - but maybe a few linger and read a dialogue or two - and maybe some of what I say resonates with them, and helps them in their spiritual search. I don't know; but I can't rule it out.
      I got a similar hint or message from the other book I bought that day, Moments of Grace. In a final section called "The Invitation", Walsch considers the question of what readers might do about what they've read in the book; and one thing he suggests is that people share their moments of grace with other people - talk to others about those moments where Spirit seems to touch their lives and inspire them, even write about them. Walsch believes that those who do this are amongst the ones who are helping to heal the world - they are in the vanguard of bringing in the new spirituality we need now, to replace the old one which has outlived its usefulness (which I agree that it has); and Walsch presumably sees these changes as especially important now, because he says elsewhere that he thinks humanity is at one of those crossroads in history, where we could go one way or the other, and, whichever it is, for better or worse, it could have irrevocable and long-lasting consequences.
      Walsch suggests that more of us need to tell stories from the heart, to share our sacred moments, our moments of grace, and we need to get back to the idea of sharing stories around the camp-fire - and today's camp-fire is the Internet. And I have already told some of my stories, related some of my sacred moments, on the Internet - and, here, now, I've been contemplating removing those accounts.
      Walsch believes some of his most important moments of grace were the times when he was inspired to write his various conversations with God. And, no doubt, to whatever extent I believe I've had moments of grace (a question I freely admit I'm not at all sure about), there is no doubt in my mind that the times I wrote my dialogues were amongst the most important such moments I've ever had. I still regard the dialogues as perhaps the most significant writing I've ever done, even if I now have doubts as to whether anyone else would find them significant. I can sometimes reread a dialogue and think to myself, "How on earth did I even manage to come up with that idea, or that train of thought?" It almost seemed as if I hadn't thought of it myself at all, but somehow come across it somewhere and simply written about it.

      So, in the light of these messages I've perceived in both these books I bought the other day, I am having second thoughts about whether I should remove the dialogues after all. Maybe I should leave them where they are, even if I can't write any more now, and even if I feel less convinced by the ideas that came out in them. Reading Walsch's exhortation on what to do to help promote the new spirituality (in a non-intrusive, non-evangelistic way), and this being a spiritual idea I believe in as much as I believe anything spiritual, it occurred to me, "After reading that, how could I possibly remove those web pages, and nullify the most important thing, maybe the only thing, I've ever done to promote those ideas I would like to see spread more amongst humanity and its belief systems?" It almost made me feel that removing the web pages would be letting down the spiritual concepts I most believe in, perhaps even letting down God or Spirit in a sense, and caving in to those forces in the world that seem to be acting contrary to Spirit.
      Well, the arguments going the other way, which I gave above, in the first part of this page, still hold, and I don't know what I will do in the end. But this new encounter with Walsch's books has at least given me pause for thought, and I will probably at least defer removing the pages for the time being.
      If you, the reader, have read my Dialogues pages, and especially if you found anything in them you liked, I would love to hear from you. I just want to know whether my pages make any difference to anyone, whether they serve any useful purpose at all.

                                Michael Edwards.

                                      E-mail: m j e (no dots or spaces) at remove-spam-block foxall dot com dot au.

This page created on Sunday, 18 April, 2004;
expanded on Tuesday, 20 April, 2004.