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Larry King Live

Pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton Discusses the Ordeal of Elian Gonzalez; Neale Donald Walsch Talks About His 'Friendship With God'

Aired April 7, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the ordeal of Elian Gonzalez. How can a 6-year-old cope in the center of a storm? The world-renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton joins us in Los Angeles.

And then, he says having conversations with God can change your life. Best-selling author Neale Donald Walsch is here, too.

And we'll take your calls too, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We welcome first to LARRY KING LIVE tonight Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, the world-renowned pediatrician. He's been a frequent guest on this show. He's the best-selling author of such books as "Touch Points" and "Infants and Mothers." He hosts the award-winning "What Every Baby Knows." He's chairman of the Pampers Parenting Institute, he has his own show on Fox Family. You can dot.com him at www.pampers.com. But we asked him here tonight to spend some moments with us to talk about the situation of Elian Gonzalez, who is 6 years old.

He is not -- you don't know him, but you certainly have treated 6-year-olds.

DR. T. BERRY BRAZELTON, PEDIATRICIAN: Well, I certainly know a lot about 6-year-olds but I am very worried about him.

KING: Why?

BRAZELTON: Well, he's bound to be in a post-traumatic stress disorder after watching his mother drown in front of his eyes. And a 6-year-old, you know, takes these things personally. He must feel, did I do this to her? Or did I lose her because I was a bad boy? And the other thing that I think we can expect is that he's afraid if he's lost her, will he lose everybody else? You know, who's...

KING: Does he understand at 6, though, death?

BRAZELTON: Sure.

KING: He does?

BRAZELTON: Well, they certainly understand abandonment. And that's what death is for a 6-year-old, abandonment. KING: So can he look with anger at his mother?

BRAZELTON: Well, yes, sure.

KING: She left me?

BRAZELTON: Yes, ambivalence, yes. He can long for, as I have heard he does, and even visualize her as still being present. Have you heard that?

KING: No.

BRAZELTON: That he says he dreams about her and thinks that if he does the right thing, she'll come back to him. So this is the way a child -- now you say he's 6. He is 6 years old in...

KING: Chrionologically.

BRAZELTON: ... by age. But he's not. After a nightmare like this, he's probably regressed back to 4 or 5. I would expect him to.

KING: Now how about living for a period of time with people you don't know who now take you in?

BRAZELTON: Well, you see, after a loss like that, you turn to anybody that would take care of you and nurture you.

KING: So you bind to these people, right?

BRAZELTON: Sure, he's just desperate for somebody.

KING: To his relatives?

BRAZELTON: Yes, yes.

KING: Now what does -- how does he deal with the father thing?

BRAZELTON: I don't know. I don't know enough about that at all. And I don't think any of us know enough about that. This is what makes me so angry. He's being treated like a -- like a -- just a piece of flesh, you know? In this political thing that we've been carrying on with Cuba. And I don't think we know enough about him or his father or what the conditions might be.

KING: And we don't know what the family in Miami has said to him about the father, right?

BRAZELTON: No, I think we can guess, but, you know, what does -- how can a child that age make up his mind? Of course he couldn't. We ought to be -- we know enough about 6-year-olds and we know an enough about nurturing to be able to look at how he is with his father, now that he's coming, and how he is with these relatives and make -- help make some decision for him.

I don't think we have any right to treat him like we've been doing. KING: Isn't a 6-year-old going to go to who's got the ice-cream at the moment?

BRAZELTON: Likely.

KING: Isn't that a fair...

BRAZELTON: Well, and, you know, it's even more serious than ice cream. It's that he's going to go to anybody that will hold out their arms to him and hug him. And this cousin of his that went to the hospital the other day and abandoned him again apparently was a very nice girl and really cared about him.

KING: When you say abandoned, you don't -- we should explain to the audience -- you're not saying they abandoned him. His perception was -- I was 10. I perceived my father as abandoning me when he died. I was angry when he died.

BRAZELTON: And you still fell that way probably.

KING: Part of it is probably still there, right? Because I looked at it as abandonment. How about post-traumatic stress and what that does to a 6-year-old. You're a physician to 6-year-olds.

BRAZELTON: Well, I think you can expect him to regress and to fall back on fantasies. You know, he -- the things I've heard about him -- and this is all hearsay, because I haven't seen him ever or don't know him -- are that he's in a sort of fantasy world now, dreaming about his mother, dreaming about replacements, all sorts of things like that. And that's -- it's probably more like a 4-year-old. And I would expect that regression.

KING: Would that mean he'd probably do -- this is a guess -- poorly in school?

BRAZELTON: Oh, I hope he won't have to go to school right away. Yes, I'd expect him to have a very tough time adjusting.

KING: You wouldn't put him in first grade?

BRAZELTON: I wouldn't...

KING: Because he was in a kindergarten situation in Cuba.

BRAZELTON: Yes.

KING: With many friends, apparently.

BRAZELTON: Well, I'd go easy on him right now intellectually, because he's making such an enormous emotional adjustment. When one developmental line like emotional or motor or cognitive is under stress, then you can expect the others to lay back.

KING: He -- does he know what all this attention means?

BRAZELTON: I think he might be overwhelmed by it. And, you know, it just must be just a clatter to him, just an overwhelming clatter.

KING: So are we wrong...

BRAZELTON: Are we?

KING: We, the collective media, we.

BRAZELTON: Oh, I think so. Don't you?

KING: We're wrong in circling the house?

BRAZELTON: Yes, of course. That's not any way to treat a child who's under stress and trying to recover from a nightmarish situation. You know, we're -- we ignore what a child needs. I think this is typical of our country. We use a child. This is -- this child is being battered and by our society.

KING: But our society is saying, hook at the society he came from. The mother would die trying to escape from it. What kind of -- that society batters, too, yet people in Cuba say we have a wonderful education system. Do you come down on any side here?

BRAZELTON: No, I think that we're acting just as immature and destructive as Cuba could possibly be. So I can't -- I have no sympathy for the way we treat -- we have treated him here.

KING: Would the ideal situation have been return to his father immediately.

BRAZELTON: I don't know, Larry.

KING: You don't know?

BRAZELTON: I'd like to know more about his father than we do. And then maybe I could answer that. But without that, I think it would be a foolish...

KING: Pediatricians get to know parents pretty well, don't they?

BRAZELTON: Oh, we like to.

KING: Yes?

BRAZELTON: I like to get to know them even in pregnancy.

KING: I had a child psychiatrist tell me once that he could pick up a 2- or 3-year-old person and tell you about the house, tell you if there's happiness in the house, tell you if there's tension.

BRAZELTON: I can do it by eight months. I can tell you which children expect to succeed and which ones expect to fail by -- and the ones that expect to fail either come from a home that never reinforces them for success or they already are recognizing that they have a difficulty going on inside their brain, a learning disorder or attention problems.

KING: And they know they have some problem?

BRAZELTON: I think they do. And the way they behave, you know, is the signal that...

KING: And can you know if the house is happy?

BRAZELTON: Not always, but you can pretty much guess. When I see a child come in -- I do a lot of this at the hospital, Children's Hospital in Boston -- and when they bring a child into the room, if that child in a strange situation sucks his thumb or twirls his hair, I know that child's been loved. And if that child leans back against his caregiver and pushes against her and grabs for part of her, or his, coat, then I know that child has recognized that I am important. So you can tell that right along.

KING: Dr. T. Berry Brazelton's the guest, the world-renowned pediatrician. We'll have some more questions for him about the Elian Gonzalez matter, and then we'll be talking with Neale Donald Walsch about his sensational series of books about conversations with God.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our guest the world-renowned pediatrician, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. If there is an exchange and the father takes him, what would be the ideal way to do that?

BRAZELTON: Prepare him ahead of time, and I hope that his cousins that he's been living with could say goodbye appropriately and say we'll come to see you or you come to see us, and then when they get to the other side, if he could take a lovey with him, something that they've given him that was precious, and he could love it, a when he misses them, you know...

KING: The stupidest thing would be to say, oh boy, you're going to terror, right? That would be dumb.

BRAZELTON: And this is what we're doing; you know, as a nation this is what we're doing.

KING: So he should be encouraged, right, that he's going to his father, this is a good life, and you're going to be happy, right, not discouraged?

BRAZELTON: If that's true.

KING: I mean, if that's going to happen. If you're faced with that, you should do that, right.

BRAZELTON: And his father should be prepared to help him with it. You know, I think he's probably overwhelmed, too, and when he takes this little boy and has to become a national symbol, why he -- his head's probably going to be swimming, so somebody should work with him to maybe this little boy make this major adjustment. KING: So your anger, if that's the word, is directed at our government, Castro, the relatives, the people crowding around the building, the media, the show?

BRAZELTON: Well, certainly the show. I don't know about the relatives. I'd like to leave them out of it, because I don't know much about them. But I think our nation is behaving improperly, and I am really ashamed of us.

KING: As a nation, like what? What should we have done?

BRAZELTON: Well, we should have investigated, and looked into it and seen how we could help this little boy with this post-traumatic stress disorder, and...

KING: You'd have psychologists to advise him?

BRAZELTON: Yes, whenever there's a divorce for instance, I always get a guardian ad litem to look at the child with each parent separately and help the judge make a decision, because otherwise, we're just making decisions for adults, not for a child, and children ought to come first.

KING: Let's take some calls for Dr. Brazelton.

Cleveland, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I'd like to know what the doctor thinks about the fact that this family has paraded this young boy to parks, and outside and put him in front of the cameras, and if you notice, the boy tries to wave, but it's not a child's wave; it's like a false wave, like whisper in their ear, or he stands there and he looks so dazed. I know the government might have something to do with it. Doesn't he think that the family has used this boy to parade him against the political aspects against Cuba?

BRAZELTON: Sure, and we played right into it, you know, as a nation and with the media, so of course they have. And it's tragic for the little boy's sake. I think it can be made up for, so I hope that's, as Larry suggests, that would be our next step, to be sure that it gets made up for.

KING: What's his memory factor going to be when he's 26?

BRAZELTON: Like yours, losing your father. You talked about it at 10.

KING: I was 10. My brother, who was 6, doesn't remember his father at all.

BRAZELTON: Yes.

KING: At all.

BRAZELTON: You know, part of that is amnesia, that it's so painful to look back on something you've lost like that, been abandoned by is the way a child sees it. And the other side that I mentioned before is this little boy probably feels he lost his mother because of something he did; he should have saved her. So he's got two major things to overcome if he's going to overcome this. Otherwise, he'll have amnesia, too.

KING: Frankly put, are you pessimistic about what's going to happen?

BRAZELTON: I hope not. I'd love to see what is father's like, if his father is indeed a loving person and a caring person -- and he seems to be with that baby -- I have watched him with that baby of his.

KING: You've watched his reaction, right.

BRAZELTON: Yes, he's very sweet with that baby, and the way I told was that when the baby made a bid for his attention then he was on the camera...

KING: There you see it.

BRAZELTON: ... he looked right in the baby's face and said it's OK, you know, with his look. That's the sign of a loving person, so I hope that's what Elian's going to get.

KING: If Elian reverts back to 4, do we have some fears about slow learning?

BRAZELTON: Well, I think we ought to be sensitive to all of the things, but a regression, you know, is a way of -- for a child to gather steam, and then be ready to take the next spurt. So the regression doesn't mean that he's going to be stuck there, by a long shot.

KING: We'll be back with some more moments with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, and then we'll talk about "Conversations with God" with Neale Donald Walsch.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Try to get a phone call or two or more in. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Take another call for Dr. Brazelton -- Princeton, New Jersey, hello.

BRAZELTON: Hello.

Mr. Brazelton, since the boy knows that the father is in the U.S., how could you explain to him why the father has not come to see him?

KING: We're assuming he knows.

BRAZELTON: I'm sure he knows. You know, you can't keep secrets from kids. KING: No.

BRAZELTON: And anytime you try to keep a secret, it's more expensive than anything you're trying to hide. So I would certainly not try to keep secrets. I would say the truth, that we haven't let his father come to him, that his father wanted to, but he wasn't allowed to.

KING: The truth never hurts, right? The relatives should be truthful. The father should be truthful, right, everything?

BRAZELTON: Think about this kid, and we aren't.

KING: Attorney General Reno said today that there's a sacred bond between father and a son. Do you agree with that?

BRAZELTON: Well, probably, but...

KING: You've seen a lot of bad fathers in your time?

BRAZELTON: Yes. I wouldn't want to rely on that, but I do think that this man looks nice, and he looks nice with the baby, so maybe he can make it to this boy. It's not going to be easy for him.

KING: The father?

BRAZELTON: Because here is a boy that reminds him of his old wife.

KING: And maybe -- there will be hostility there.

BRAZELTON: Sure.

KING: The boy will probably withdraw a little, right?

BRAZELTON: And this little boy isn't going to be easy when he gets back home, and so he's got to be prepared for a tough time.

KING: So are you saying that the worst thing would be to take him, put him on a plane, goodbye, that would be the worst, don't do that?

BRAZELTON: That's what we're going to do.

KING: So you think immigration is wrong, if they come to the point of just turn him over and go home?

BRAZELTON: Sure. I think we ought to be thinking about this child first.

KING: There should be psychologists and people working with him, a transition of sorts.

BRAZELTON: Absolutely.

KING: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, hello. CALLER: Hello.

Doctor, for the last five years, the boy has been raised a communist. Wouldn't you say all of this negativity toward his dad and his country would have an everlasting effect on this child?

BRAZELTON: Sure. That's what I'm afraid of. That's what Larry and I have been discussing. We're afraid of what it might mean to him.

You know, communism isn't the issue in this...

KING: He's not a 6-year-old communist?

BRAZELTON: No. And I think we ought to forget all of that, you know. Here are two powerful countries who are acting like babies, and ignoring what they're doing to this child.

KING: And then you have the idiotic extremes. I heard one guy say today that he thinks he enjoyed coming here just because he had a private plane to bring him.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZELTON: No.

KING: And the other side who thinks that, you know, the worst -- if he goes back, that the worst thing in the world is going to happen, and the annihilation, and the reverse side is Castro's taking full advantage of this, isn't he?

BRAZELTON: I think so, but so have we.

KING: the politicians step in.

So you're saying the least-interested party here is Elian. That's...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZELTON: The least paid attention to, right. We have paid the least attention to him and what it might mean to him. That was why I was so glad to discuss this with you tonight, because I think, you know, it's time we thought about him as a person.

KING: So if you had your way, the cameras would back off?

BRAZELTON: Sure, sure they would. And I would get people in there who could advise this young father if he's going to be here or this family, I mean, if he's going with him, or the family if he's going to stay here, and I'd watch Elian's progress.

You know, you asked about this regression, and I'm just guessing that he's got it, but I'll bet he does, and he's -- these dreams that he's having about his mother, and I'd want to work with him and support him and all of this intent to pull himself back together and get off the ground.

KING: Thanks, doctor. Always great seeing you.

BRAZELTON: Great to see you.

KING: Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, the world-renowned pediatrician. You can get to him on -- a hundred thousand hits a day -- at www.pampers.com. He is chairman of the pampers parenting institute, the host of "What Every Baby Knows" and the author of major bestsellers.

We'll come back with Neale Donald Walsch, and we'll talk about a phenomenon, his books, "Conversations with God."

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

We welcome now Neale Donald Walsch. His latest book is "Friendship with God." There you see its cover. He's the author of "Conversations with God," three different books. Those conversations on the "New York Times" best-sellers list for more than 130 weeks. He kind of burst on the scene.

Are you a minister?

NEALE DONALD WALSCH, AUTHOR, "FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD": No, I am not, except to the degree we're all ministers.

KING: Where did all of this start?

WALSCH: It started in the darkest moment of my life, Larry, when everything was going wrong in my life. My career was reaching a dead end.

KING: What career was it?

WALSCH: I was radio talk show host actually.

KING: Many have ridden that role.

WALSCH: And reached the same dead end.

KING: So it wasn't going anywhere?

WALSCH: Not at all.

KING: This was how long ago?

WALSCH: About four years ago.

KING: All right. What happened?

WALSCH: In addition to that, I was watching my relationship fall apart, my relationship with my significant other. It wasn't the first time that I'd seen that happen in my life, nor was it the second, nor frankly, was it the third. So I realized that there was something I didn't know here about relationship, the knowing of which would change everything, and my health too was falling apart as well. I had a lot of chronic problems very early on in my life, from lung problems, to heart problems, to arthritis and you name it. So I got to the age of 49, 50 years old and I said, OK, what are the rules? Somebody tell me the rules , because I don't understand how this is supposed to go. I've done what I was supposed to do, or most of what I thought I was supposed to do, but nothing is working out for me the way I thought it would work out.

KING: So?

WALSCH: So I called out in the middle of the night -- one night I woke up in the middle of the night, and I was searching for answers, 4:00 in the morning, and I went into a darkened house and I really began screaming out silently inside myself, what does it take to make life work? Somebody tell me. What are these rules? And what have I done to deserve a life of such continuing struggle? And then I sat in the couch in my living room, stewing in my own juice, as it were, and I asked God, I literally called out his name.

KING: Were you a believer?

WALSCH: I don't know if I was or I wasn't. I really don't know.

KING: Were you religious? Did you go to church?

WALSCH: As a child, yes, but not at that point any life. But I knew there was this thing called God that was supposed to be real and supposed to be there.

KING: And loving and caring.

WALSCH: And loving and caring. So what I did, I threatened God at that point. I said, God, either come to me now and give me some answers or I am out of here.

KING: Meaning suicide.

WALSCH: Absolutely.

KING: You were that low?

WALSCH: I was that low, a nadir in my existence. And, Larry, I heard a voice clearly as I am hearing now, right over my right shoulder, so clearly, I turned around and thought someone had come into the room. It was 4:30 in the morning, and the voice said, Neale, do you really want answers to all of these questions or are you just venting, and I can recall my response after I got over the shock of not finding anyone there, I thought, well, I am venting, but if you've got answers, I'd like know what they are. And with that, I received the answers to most of the most astonishing questions and the most extraordinary answers, and as they began coming to me and literally filling my mind, I thought I've got to write this down, and I found, fortunately, a yellow legal pad and a pen that had been left there on the coffee table from the day before.

KING: How do you know you weren't, one, hallucinating, people do that?

WALSCH: Yes.

KING: Imagining this voice?

WALSCH: Yes.

KING: Two, your own subconscious, in a sense, talking to you, you have put it into words.

WALSCH: I don't know, Larry.

KING: You don't know that.

WALSCH: I don't know.

KING: So maybe it wasn't God.

WALSCH: Maybe it wasn't. And the day...

KING: But you wrote a book called "Conversations with God."

WALSCH: Because I think that it was. I sincerely think that I was inspired by the divine.

KING: Why you?

WALSCH: But from the day I lose my doubt about that, the day I just step away from doubt altogether is the day I become dangerous, and I have no intention of becoming dangerous.

KING: Why you? Why didn't God talk to you and not to him and her?

WALSCH: Actually God does talk to him and her, and to you and to all of us. The question isn't why me? But why have I chosen to listen? I think people listen to the God that speaks to all of us when people get to the point in their lives when they are forced to or inspired to, one or the other.

KING: What's the first thing you asked?

WALSCH: What does it take to make life work? What am I doing wrong here?

KING: What were you doing wrong?

WALSCH: Well, I was, as God said, I was misunderstanding the whole relationship of God to us, and I was misunderstanding my whole relationship of myself to everyone else. Basically, what God said, what you're doing wrong is very simple. You think you're all alone. You think you're separate from everyone else, and I'll give you a simple solution in three sentences that'll change your life. I said great, what is it? He said, you're one with everyone. There's no one who is separate from you. What you do for another, you do for yourself. What you fail to do for another, you fail to do for yourself. It's as simple as that. I hate to be simplistic, but it's the truth. It will change your life if you choose not to just hear and conceptualize it, and I chose to live it from that day on.

KING: And did you therefore start reading scriptures?

WALSCH: No.

KING: No. this is not, then, a bible lesson?

WALSCH: No, it's certainly not.

KING: This is not the Old or New Testament?

WALSCH: No, it's not.

KING: This is not Luke chapter six?

WALSCH: No.

KING: This is you and God.

WALSCH: Yes.

KING: Do you ask questions about things people think about -- did he have a son, those kinds of questions?

WALSCH: No, I don't. I only asked the kinds of questions that my soul yearned to know the answers to, that dealt with my own life.

KING: Living questions.

WALSCH: Living questions. What is the right livelihood. What is the proper expression of human sexuality? What brings good health to people?

But most important of all, what is stopping us from leading the kinds of lives we all know are capable?

KING: When you first approached the publisher and said I have got a book here, I always had all of this trouble and God was talking to me, and here's what he said, were you thrown out of some places?

WALSCH: I got rejection letters. They simply sent letters to me.

KING: Yes. Who finally took it on?

WALSCH: Hampton Rose, a publishing company.

KING: Small?

WALSCH: Small publisher. Now a medium-sized publisher.

KING: You made them medium sized.

WALSCH: I think to some degree I might have. In Charlottesville, Virginia. They had the courage. They picked up the book, and said this is important, and people are going to relate to this.

KING: More with Neale Donald Walsch and later your phone calls. The latest book is "Friendship with God."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In a sense, Neale, even if you were delusional, if it's helped, it's worked, right?

WALSCH: Yes, that's exactly right.

KING: But your convinced it's not delusional?

WALSCH: Yes, I am convinced.

KING: Do you hear him now?

WALSCH: Not in the sense you're referring to, no.

KING: Well, how do you tune into him?

WALSCH: Well, see, God speaks to us in many, many ways, Larry, not just...

KING: You said you heard a voice, though.

WALSCH: Yes, I did. But that isn't the way God communicates with us. For instance, let me give you an example, when I say that God communicates to all the people all the time, I was on airplane on my way down here, and I thought my gosh, this is about LARRY KING, this is about a worldwide audience, what can I say, what can I say possibly put into a few words in the few moments I have with Larry, and I was looking for some inspiration, and my wife sitting next to me on the plane said, "Look on your lunch tray." I said, "What's on my lunch tray?" She said, "Look on the lunch tray." Because you look right past God's communications. I look and I say, salt and pepper shaker, what do you want from me? She said, no, next to the salt and pepper shaker. I said, I've got to take this out. A little piece of paper on the lunch tray that was left there by the airline, it says, I will be glad and rejoice in you, I will sing praise to your name, oh most high. Psalm nine, verse two. What was that doing on my lunch tray this afternoon?

KING: Because Alaska Airlines puts it on all the lunch trays.

WALSCH: God bless them. But is that coincidence? Is that serendipity, or is it possible that God said, you know what, I am shameless, I will use any device to get through to you. Look on your next lunch tray next to the salt-and-pepper shaker, it's right in front of your nose.

KING: Can we say that it all boils down to the Golden Rule?

WALSCH: Absolutely.

KING: Do unto others -- if you live that way, everything else will fall into place.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSCH: Everything is solved, if governments would do that, if people would do that with each other, all the disasters, all the pain of life.

KING: What's been the response from people? I mean, the books have been extraordinary, almost two years on the best-seller list.

WALSCH: Well, we're getting 300 letters a week, Larry, from people all over the world.

KING: Who want to know what?

WALSCH: They want to know -- first, they're saying thank you. The demographic is 10-year-old to teenagers and 90-year-olds, and they're saying thank you for at last introducing me to a God I can fall in love with, a God I no longer have to be afraid of, a God of my highest thoughts about who God would be.

KING: Does this God explain to you, or the God, illness? You said you had illness.

WALSCH: Yes.

KING: Did he explain illness? Did he explain death?

WALSCH: Yes, he did. Of course there is no death.

KING: There is no death?

WALSCH: Death is a great illusion. The soul simply changes form, and life is eternal. Life goes on forever. In fact there are two lesson that he taught me. He said, if you take these two lessons, everything else in your life will make sense suddenly and you'll have no more worries. These two are quite simple -- life is eternal, and we're all one. There's nobody in the room but you in various forms. You treat that person across the table exactly as you would choose to treat yourself, and then don't fear about death because you can't possibly die, because you'd change into another form.

KING: How about illness and pain?

WALSCH: Illness and pain is the result of processes that have gone on all during our lives having to do with our beliefs, our thoughts, the way we take care of ourselves, or fail to take care of ourselves, our environment and so forth. But God says about illness and about every so-called negative experience -- I hate to be almost predictable about this -- but in the seeds of every human experience is an enormous lesson, an enormous gift, a wonderful treasure, and if you look inside there for the treasure, you'll discover you've been gifted all of your life.

KING: How do you learn that from the illness of a child?

WALSCH: It's difficult.

KING: A 3-year-old. What lesson would 3-year-old with cancer learn?

WALSCH: I'm not sure that the lesson is for the 3-year-old. It may be for the 3-year-old's parents.

KING: The 3-year-old is the one that's going to die.

WALSCH: The 3-year-old won't die, but the 3-year-old may in fact change form, and when that 3-year-old changes form, all the people around that 3-year-old will have come to understand that their lives have been touched by angel.

KING: You had interaction with Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross.

WALSCH: I know her quite well and I worked on her staff, yes.

KING: Interviewed her many times.

WALSCH: Yes.

KING: You knew her. You knew her then before you believed?

WALSCH: Yes.

KING: What did you think of her work with death and near dying?

WALSCH: Well, I think Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross is one of the most extraordinary human beings on face of the Earth, and her contribution to the human race is unspeakable.

KING: But you were not a believer at that time, right?

WALSCH: Not in the sense of having thought about God as a workable part of my life or having a friendship with God, no. I had a broad understanding that there was an experience of the universe called God, and it was repeatedly clear it was real.

KING: This God that communicates with you and with all us, you say, is he a punishing god? Is he angry?

WALSCH: No God is angry about nothing. What can God be angry about? God has everything. God is everything. There's no way you can hurt or damage God. That's virtually impossible. God has no ego, so you can't even hurt God's ego. So God has no reason to be angry, and therefore no reason to punish us.

KING: How about judgmental? WALSCH: There's no judgment.

KING: So if you're gay, there's no sin, there's no non-sin. What does God do with the murderer?

WALSCH: God does to the murderer what we should do with the murderer, simply love the murderer and then do what is appropriate within our human constructions, because on Earth, our human construction require us to interact with each other in a way that makes sense in society.

KING: But he doesn't say if you're gay or you're supposedly -- bisexual or anything like that, that we've come to deal with as sin and you're going to repent? Is there Hell?

WALSCH: No, there's no such place as Hell. What happens after death is not eternal reward or eternal condemnation, but simply the continued evolution of the human soul. Even the pope just said on the 20th of July, there's no such place as hell. And God is not a punishing god. The pope said this.

KING: How about guilt?

WALSCH: Guilt is -- I like "regret" as better word. I think that fear and guilt are the only enemies of man. I think Elizabeth used to say a lot, one of my favorite quotes.

KING: What do you mean by "Friendship with God" as opposed to your previous books?

WALSCH: Our relationship with God is like our relationship with each other. It begins with a conversation. If the conversation goes well, it moves into an experience of friendship. If the friendship goes well, it turns into an experience of oneness with God, or what I want to call communion with God, and so unfortunately, not many people ever have a conversation with God, because they've been culturally stigmatized into thinking that they cannot have conversation with God, that in fact God would not talk the any of us, that in fact God stopped talking to us thousands and thousands of years ago, and so to announce that you have actually had a conversation with God or even inspired by God at that level is very risky.

KING: We'll be back with Neale Donald Walsch. We'll take your phone calls. And we'll ask him what he does when he has a bad day.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. We're going to go to your phone calls in a moment.

Neale Donald Walsch, what do you do when you have a bad day, bad mood?

WALSCH: I try to help someone else from not having a bad day, because I learned a long time ago what I choose for myself to give to another...

KING: You don't get angry?

WALSCH: Oh, of course I do.

KING: What do you do with anger?

WALSCH: I try to forgive myself first of all, and then I ask the other person with whom I'm angry to forgive me as well. Then I look to see what was the cause of that anger. Of course, I take a look inside, and I try to go to gratitude. I try to go as quickly as I can to think of all the things that are going right other than all the things that are going wrong.

KING: With does God say and what do you think about Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism.

WALSCH: Wonderful teachings, wonderful, wonderful teachings.

KING: They disagree.

WALSCH: One and all. They don't disagree on the basics, they disagree on the fine print. On the basics, love, do unto others, we are all one, be kind, be gentle -- there's no disagreement. And the fine print we can talk about and discuss.

KING: You ever ask about Christ?

WALSCH: No, not specifically.

KING: Why not?

WALSCH: Because I didn't have -- see, because the conversation I had was about my own life. It was about my own experience. It wasn't about the grandest theological questions of all time, it was about how do I get through Monday morning.

KING: Do you get any comfort when you watch Sunday morning evangelicals?

WALSCH: It's not comfort I would look for if I would choose to watch for it. I look for authenticity and truth. And what I see are people who deeply believe in what they're saying and what they're feeling. And I honor that. And I say, that's marvelous. Isn't that great?

KING: You don't criticize them or knock them?

WALSCH: I would never criticize anyone for saying what's true in their heart.

KING: Canal Fulton, Ohio for Neale Donald Walsch. The newest is "Friendship with God" -- hello.

CALLER: Hi, Neale, thanks for your inspirational books. My question is, is there a specific age or a good age when you can start teaching your children about these books?

WALSCH: How soon do you start teaching your children about love?

CALLER: From birth.

WALSCH: Thank you very much.

KING: Do you -- do you teach your children about God early?

WALSCH: Yes, from the very moment that you can communicate intelligently with them. And we talk about God in ways that are allowing the child to know that God is love, that God is the wonderful energy of life, that there's a spark of divinity in every single human being, and that if we look for that spark of divinity they'll have a whole different kind of life.

KING: How do you explain calamity, the flood, the hurricane, the wipeout of homes, the death of hundreds and hundreds of people in one swoop, painfully dying? How do you explain that? Why would a good, loving, honest, wonderful God do that?

WALSCH: Well, God doesn't cause those things.

KING: He could stop it.

WALSCH: Yes, I suppose one would imagine that God could stop it. But, you see, every life experience is placed into our reality for a particular reason to provide us an opportunity to be and to declare, to know and understand, to announce and fulfill who we really are. When we -- God said to me, I have brought you nothing but angels and placed before you nothing but miracles, and when you see your life as nothing more than a constant series of events that have placed perfection right before you, opportunity for you to decide who you are and to experience it, then you will bless the day and bless, bless, bless all the thing that have ever happened to you, whether you have labeled them good or labeled them bad. And, Larry, I wouldn't be the first person to be able to say retrospectively that some of what I thought were the worst moments of my life turned out to provide the grandest gifts, the greatest teachings and the most marvelous miracles. That's a rather common human experience.

KING: How about the rich person is happier than the poor and this quest for money and the mercenary aspect?

WALSCH: I'm not sure that the rich person is happier than the poor. In the past five or six years, I have come to know some rich people because I tend to travel now in circles that include people who are very wealthy. And I'm not seeing a higher happiness there than when I lived in the park on the street -- and I spent a year living on the street because I didn't have a dime. In fact, I found great happiness among street people -- and great happiness among wealthy people, too, but I didn't find any disproportion of one to the other.

KING: What was it like living on the street?

WALSCH: Well, at first it was horrible because I wasn't prepared for it.

KING: Where were you? Cold-weather climate or...

WALSCH: I was -- well, I was in a rainy climate in Oregon. And it was raining every single night. And I was...

KING: Where did you sleep?

WALSCH: On the ground. I had a sleeping bag, thank goodness, and I had a tent for some of the time. And I can recall just asking God, just give me a dry night.

KING: How many years ago?

WALSCH: This was about six or seven, maybe eight years ago now -- time flies.

KING: If someone were to come over to you and say you're going to be on a worldwide television show talking about your fourth successful best-selling book, that would have been a laugh to you?

WALSCH: Yes, it would. But my experience at the moment was a laugh to me as well. It's only when I started laughing about what was happening to me while it was happening to me that I managed to move away from it.

KING: But you wanted to kill yourself?

WALSCH: Yes, I did.

KING: So you had hit the lowest...

WALSCH: The nadir of my existence, absolutely, without question. But that was because I didn't understand what was going on. I didn't -- couldn't see the gift.

KING: Did you change that night?

WALSCH: Yes, I cried, Larry. I cried like a child. As I was writing, I cried so much that the tears were creating blotches on the legal pad, and I couldn't read what I had written because the ink was all smeared.

KING: You going to have a kind of spiritual peace corps?

WALSCH: We're looking now at ways to apply the extraordinary messages of these books and of really all the great esoteric spiritual literature in the practical matter of day-to-day life. So we're putting together the New Millennium Peace Foundation with Grand Master Son Who Lee (ph), who's a spiritual figure in South Korea. And we're going to start in South Korea, in Seoul next year, and begin there a series of worldwide conferences where we're going to call together all the great spiritual leaders of the planet and ask them to use their influence in a very public way and to say to the people, what can we do, if anything, to bring us together again? What can we do to unite North and South Korea? Fifty years, Larry, they've been apart. And I -- I want to know, where is the spiritual leadership? You know, the pope made an extraordinarily courageous trip to Israel recently, and that was an important overture. But why did it take so many hundreds of years to do it is the real question.

KING: Back with more of Neale Donald Walsch. His new one is "Friendship With God." He's the author of the famed "Conversations With God." All three books on the "New York Times" best-seller list more than 130 weeks. More phone calls after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back.

We'll take another call for Neale Donald Walcsh. Rockmart, Georgia -- hello.

CALLER: Hello, how are you?

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I would like to ask him, does he acknowledge other belief systems that acknowledge other gods in different names, and does he mention that in his book?

WALSCH: I'm not sure I know how you mean -- or what you mean by do I acknowledge them? If you mean do I recognize that they're there and do I look...

CALLER: Right, that people...

WALSCH: Of course.

CALLER: ... call them by different names.

WALSCH: Oh, sure.

CALLER: ... do you acknowledge that?

WALSCH: Sure, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

KING: What does God say he or she is?

WALSCH: Why, God says -- first of all, what I am is -- the real question is what am I not? There is nothing that I am not. So God says what I am is all that is, all that was and all there ever will be.

KING: So he's evil, too?

WALSCH: Well, indeed, if, in fact, you assume that God is the all of it. But evil only is as evil does, and nothing's evil unless thinking makes it so. So you get into a real intellectual discussion of, in fact, what is evil? And you and I can agree on what evil is, and then two years later we might both decide...

KING: I mean, we'd all agree that Hitler was evil.

WALSCH: Yes, we might all agree on that.

KING: Might?

WALSCH: Yes -- well, indeed. Indeed, I think within the context of our human experience we would, of course, agree that Hitler was evil. But supposing -- just supposing -- God said, I'm going to send a soul to the earth to show humanity to itself for the purpose of lifting humanity above what it had become and what it had sunk to. Supposing I gave an assignment to a soul. You're going to go down there and you're going to be the worst of it. And the end result will be that the human race will lift itself at least one notch above that and never again go there.

KING: But a lot of people are going to pay a price for it.

WALSCH: Indeed, if you consider death a price, they have paid a price for it. But supposing that there was a larger tapestry that we can't see. Just supposing we're so close to the tapestry that all we see are the threads, and we can't see the tapestry itself. So I think that we have to stand back and take a look at the whole picture.

KING: Do you think God loves one nation more than another?

WALSCH: No.

KING: No?

WALSCH: No, there's no one nation under God, there are no chosen people, and there's no one who's any more special than any other. The idea of superiority is the most seductive notion ever visited upon the human life. And in "Friendship of God," God said if you will somehow eliminate the idea that you're somehow better than someone else, bring an end to better, every pain on your planet that's inflicted by humans, the one upon the other, will go away overnight.

Say this to your congregations -- God said, I dare you to challenge every rabbi, every minister, every priest, every national leader to say to their congregations the one interesting sentence, ours is not a better way, ours is merely another way.

KING: Nobody running for office would say that.

WALSCH: Of course. How could they, because we have to demonize the other person. What the American public would do if George and Al would stand up on a platform and say, you know what? Mine is just my idea. It may not even be the best idea. If you agree with me, fine. If you don't, that's fine, too.

KING: And I'll listen to your idea. Maybe your idea might work.

WALSCH: Exactly. See, then what would happen? But that's too intelligent. Except I think the human race is beginning to go there now. We're beginning to have...

KING: Wackos would go crazy.

WALSCH: ... less and less patience with these.

KING: Why you? Why you, Neale? Why is he talking to you?

WALSCH: He's talking to all of us, every minute of every day.

KING: You're writing it down, though.

WALSCH: Yes. Now why did I write it down? Because I was desperate. And I didn't write it down to write a book -- I never intended to write a book. I wrote it down to keep a record to these inspiring thoughts that were coming to me and gradually changing my life. So I kept a record of them. But in the middle of the dialogue, it was said to me, this will one day become a book. And I said to myself, oh, yes, this I've got to see. But, you know, when God has his mind made up, watch out.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with Neale Donald Walsch, the author of "Conversations With God." The new one is "Friendship With God."

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Neale wanted to add something on -- on -- about Hitler, elaborate a little bit.

WALSCH: Well, you know, Larry, I want to be real sensitive to this. This is a very sensitive question, of course, and I don't want to be perceived as having made light of what happened during the Hitler experience. But what God said to me in the dialogue among many comments about Hitler -- because he talked about Hitler in the book a lot, actually -- but one of the most important things he said about Hitler was, Neale, he said, the horror of the Hitler experience was not only that a Hitler came along, but that so many people went along. Not only that Hitler killed millions of Jews but that millions of Jews had to be killed for Hitler to be stopped.

There's a lesson here. And the lesson is that there's a little bit of Hitler in all of us. And wiping out a people is a wiping out of people, whether at Auschwitz or at Wounded Knee.

KING: There are degrees, though.

WALSCH: Indeed. Indeed, there are. And I think that Hitler was sent to us as an example of the lowest degree, the lowest to which we can go so we will never forget and never go there again.

KING: Do you think there's more of a spiritual hunger now than ever before? And if so, why?

WALSCH: I think because the human race has lost patience with itself. We've looked at how we've created life, we've looked at how our institutions are working or not working -- politics, education, spirituality, religion, economics -- and we said, you know, we're going into the 21st century and we still haven't got the most basic problems of human experience solved. What could we do -- what don't we know, the knowing of which would change everything?

KING: How do you account for that since technologically our advancements are incredible? The advancement of the human mind, I think someone said, is up 50 years.

WALSCH: That's correct, and I account for it because I think we're too focused on everything but human consciousness and spirituality and matters, even for that matter, of the mind.

KING: And one of the reasons might be we don't think we go on forever, right?

WALSCH: I think so. I think -- and the other reason...

KING: Most people think dying is it.

WALSCH: Is the end of it. My father did. He looked at me at 83, God bless him, a couple of months before his death, and he said, Neale, what's the answer? What's this all about? And I looked at him -- of course, I didn't have anything to say to him at that point. I didn't want to. but when I walked out of the room, I thought to myself, God bless him and help me not get there at 83 and be asking a question like that. But, you see, I don't think that my father really did a lot of reading. He didn't do a lot of soul-searching. He was involved in that physical here-and-now world.

KING: What do you make of all of these people now communicating with people like your father?

WALSCH: I'm not quite sure I understand the question.

KING: Communicating with the dead?

WALSCH: Well, I think it's possible to communicate with the souls who have left this particular plain of experience, and I think we should not write that off.

KING: Have you tried?

WALSCH: No, I have no need to. I'm communicating with the big voice.

KING: You're going to the top, right?

WALSCH: Straight to the top.

KING: there's no political involved here, right? You could be in trouble if you're talking to the top. What's next after "Friendship"?

WALSCH: There's a book called "Communion With God," which is coming out in October from the Putnam publishing people in New York City. And that talks about the experience that I discussed earlier where a conversation leads to a friendship which ultimately produce such a high-quality friendship that you feel one with the other. And we can have exactly this kind of relationship with God. Mystics have written about it and talked about it from time immemorial, and that is the experience of oneness with all that is, which I've chosen to call "Communion With God."

KING: What worries you the most?

WALSCH: Nothing. Well, I -- that's probably a lie. It was a snap answer that I felt good to say. The truth? That I might be one day disingenuous, inauthentic, think too much of myself, imagine that I know something more than somebody else knows and get run away -- let this thing run away with me.

KING: Ergo ego.

WALSCH: Ego.

KING: Thanks, Donald. Neale Donald Walsch. His latest book is "Friendship With God." He's the author of the "Conversations with God", a series of books.

We're going to have some great shows next week, including Detective Steve Thomas. His book is coming out about the Ramseys.

And we're going to have a whole session with the whole cast of "Law and Order."

Stay tuned now for CNN "NEWSSTAND." Greta Van Susteren has a special interview with someone we're going to have on live Monday night: the mother of Susan Smith.

Thanks for joining us. From Los Angeles, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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