"A New Earth" starts off by drawing a parallel between the evolution of flowers, crystals, reptiles, birds and human consciousness.
And on page 18, the author goes on to write:
"A large-scale opening of spirituality outside of the religious structures is an entirely new development. In the past, this would have been inconceivable, especially in the West, the most mind-dominated of all cultures, where the Christian church had a virtual franchise on spirituality. You couldn't just stand up and give a spiritual talk or publish a spiritual book unless you were sanctioned by the church, and if you were not, they would quickly silence you."
If the message of this work is more important than the language, I feel Eckhart Tolle could have made a more purposeful effort to steer away from controversial evolutionary examples, New Age terminology, and bluntly worded distain for time-tested, traditional religions. The Church in America has never had the power to silence publishing houses, so the idea that one would be "silenced" suggests that Tolle has not risen above his own spiritual baggage. In this respect, Tolle has chosen to align himself with a popular but controversial notion. A distain toward so-called organized religion is the whole impetus behind the New Age movement. People want to FEEL spiritual without having to submit to anything or anybody higher than themselves, and New Age dogma promises that we can have our cake and eat it too. Therefore, Tolle's blanket statement feeds an ego-driven desire to rebel against anything that calls for submission, and that is why traditional religion becomes an easy target. This is a criticism that is sometimes deserved - because outward conformity without inward transformation indeed misses the mark no matter what religious affiliation one subscribes to. Nevertheless, traditional religious adherents, collectively known as the "Christian Church" in this instance, are undeserving of Tolle's sweeping generalization. The same religion that produced Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King endured the sins of ordinary men and woman who faithfully filled church pews but never rolled up their sleeves. Does the presence of sinners negate the relevance of the message? Or do we point to them to rationalize our own lack of sincerity? There are bad apples in any organization, secular or religious. Anger is rightly aimed at individuals who create harm - but not at entire groups, and that goes for "organized religion" too.
Allow me to use a more concrete example: Would you, if given a choice, walk on quicksand, reasoning that it molds and yields to your every step more successfully? Or would you recognize that quicksand is dangerous because of its inability to support your weight? As in life, in spirit, we must seek solid ground. Structure in religion is like structure underfoot. The mere presence of it is not necessarily the noose that New Age proponents would have one believe. A child without discipline is a child without loving parents, and a spirituality lacking moral structure is a fleeting fad. Moreover, structure has allowed religious precepts to survive all these generations intact. By contrast, the New Age philosophy lends itself to so many self-identified interpretations that no truth is absolute, and no particular revelation is likely to stand the test of time. As soon as someone comes along and labels a belief system "inconvenient", the house of cards falls.
Ego is going to defend ego, which means that truth is lost in translation. Therefore, New Age philosophies cannot claim to be above the pitfalls that beset traditional religion. There are hypocrites and poor students. From a distance, they both look the same. Yet one is rebellious, and the other is stumbling along but intent on growing forward. Therefore, who can be his or her judge but God? Yet Tolle judges an entire class of Western religions from this safe but imprecise distance.
One of the overlooked reasons for what Tolle calls "distortions" has to do with the transposition of faith and philosophy. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, whereas Buddha claimed to be a teacher. It is WE who worship Buddha and called Jesus a "teacher". If only we would take them at their word, we would soon realize that only one drew a distinction of a supernatural sort: And that is the one for whom over 500 people stood in witness of the resurrection, and for whom dozens witnessed miracles of healing that modern medical science to this day cannot duplicate. That is not to say that teachers of other belief systems are wrong. Rather, it is to say that while the teachings may overlap, the intent does not. By faith we learn how to relate to our creator, and by philosophy we learn how to live for the sake of living. Living for God vs. Self are not at all the same aims. So again, it is important not to confuse faith vs. philosophy, psychology vs. spirituality. Whereas in New Age the aim is to know, love and serve one's self in order to reach one's "potential", in traditional religion, faith is to love God and to serve others. Misleadingly, however, the number one myth promoted by New Age "doctrine" is that all roads lead to the same destination. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Regardless of one's beliefs, the reality check is this: Ego, human nature, original sin, or whatever you want to call it, is a fact of life. We are "prisoners" to it, and the apostles themselves lament the tendency to slip back into "slavery" as a result of distorted beliefs about what it means to be spiritual (read Galatians 3-4, for example).
None of this is to say that Tolle has it all wrong. I agree with the premise that once we name the problem - in Tolle's parlance, "ego" - that is half the battle. Going through life unaware of why we act and react the way we do is never a good idea, and I applaud the author's attempt to awaken readers in this regard.
If this book makes someone feel better about themselves, that's one thing. If this work makes OTHERS feel good to be around those who have read this work because it has triggered a "shift in consciousness" that results in what the Bible calls the fruit of the spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, etc. - that would appear to be the true test of the A New Earth's awakening potential.
For psychological value, I give this an A+. For spiritual value, I question its merit. In most New Age teachings the point is to self empower. In traditional Judeo-Christian teachings and also in Islam, only God can bestow wisdom and blessings and only when we seek God's will instead of our own. I personally would rather give the power and glory away to God - acknowledging that I am weak and He is strong, as the song goes - than ascribe growth to my heightened sense of consciousness. For to do otherwise - to raise consciousness without also raising humility and willingness to seek God's will - results in a conundrum (logical fallacy). How do you become enlightened from within, if from within the ego is the filter by which all perceptions pass? Therefore, if you do not see a need for a "higher power" to intervene, are you not feeding the ego's sense of self empowerment?
There are people here who have attempted to remind others of the Bible passage that says that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. I personally believe I'd better find out what that means rather than blaze my own trail. Why? Because a sense of "Presence" is only the beginning. Without relationship, that form of spirituality is a glass half full and a journey incomplete. One cannot serve both God and ego, therefore to submit to God is to surrender to the reality that transformation is not a do-it-yourself job.
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them, (2 Titus 3:1-5/NIV).
The above was written over 2,000 years ago. But it sure sounds like it is referring to today's self-styled "spiritual" views.
Very well put, however...why does one have to have faith that Jesus is God? I've never followed Jesus, but I've always followed God. I've found it makes no difference that mine doesn't wear white and have a beard...it is neither female or male or of form. What is the point of studying past when your lessons are now? Can you not surrender to your own fate and existence? Can one not surrender to the life force? Why the bizarre?
I am not sure if I can answer that question, but I can relate my own experience and that is best described by what happens when you drop a bunch of army recruits or boy scouts in the woods without a map or compass. The tendency, when you have no objective outside instrument by which to gauge one's efforts, is to arrive back at where one started from. You've traveled a long hard journey, but find the territory looking oddly familiar. It takes outside instruction or training handed down from a more qualified source to overcome what comes naturally - circles. So it is with spiritual journeys. We need reference points that can bring us back on track when we find ourselves lost in the many spiritual beliefs that all seem superficially similar yet are inherently different. What Tolle is saying is primarily of psychological and philosophical value. It has little to say about the nature, intent or expectations of our creator. Therefore, I would say that "A New Earth" is a beginning, but it should not be an end.
In the suspension of judgment, which we learn is necessary because judgment is primarily ego driven, we risk losing the ability to learn or change. We accept everything as it is, which in 80 percent of life's day-to-day circumstances may not be a contradiction. However, there is danger in that it may spawn a form of passivity that neither resists what is wrong nor stands up for what is right. In Eastern philosophy there is a lot of emphasis on becoming detached, or what psychologists call "dissociated" from the mind-shaking events of life. This is what psychologists call a "defense mechanism". In moderation, it is perfectly suited. When taken too far, it is maladaptive -- a mental illness in and of itself.
Moreover, the book tends to gloss over some subtle but key differences in the various belief traditions cited in the work to support Tolle's thesis. In Judeo-Christian belief systems, the objective is to lead life more fully and fearlessly, not less so. Consider Jesus and his willingness to express the concept of "righteous anger" by throwing the money changers out of the temple where they were conducting just about every form of business BUT worship for which the temple was created.
In all other manifestations of day-to-day life we are quite inventive and even quite dependent upon our tools - relying on a working computer to get our jobs done, music to help us pass the time, the speedometer on our cars, the gauge on our gas tank, the medicine in the bottle, the review our boss gave us, clocks to ensure that we make it to our destination on schedule, the tree to shade us from the hot sun, a steady stream of electrical power to make our modern lifestyles possible, the roof over our heads and the heaters in our homes to protect us from freezing in the winter. Yet in many of the Eastern philosophies, we learn to do what in the physical realm would be dangerous, even suicidal - and that is to exchange all preconceived but useful reference points, which have "evolved" as a survival and intuitive instinct, for a sense of formless "oneness" that does not have a stake in what benefits one's existence or limits it. Yes, this could be a form of peace - if peace means letting go. But if if peace means being filled with that something the Bible calls the Holy Spirit, instead of emptied of everything that formerly mattered, it is a questionable definition of peace. Peace in spite of caring MORE not less, that is the "peace that passes all understanding" that Jesus Christ spoke of. Peace because we have learned how not to care about trivial things such as good or bad? That would seem less than human, and largely unsustainable.
For meditative purposes, I have no problem with this approach. In order to hear God, one needs to clear one's mind, and the Bible, in fact, encourages meditation on all that is good and all that is pure as a form of relationship or communion with God. As for using this mental state to vote or make a decision as to whether to see a car mechanic or visit a doctor, it would be impractical, however, and Tolle admits as much by saying we cannot do away with things like clocks. But aside from that, there is too little emphasis on the art of decision making. Decisions are necessary, and judgment is necessary to make those decisions. But the way Tolle tells it, judgment is often a manifestation of ego. The problem is that this worldview can become a way of traveling in mindless circles. Nothing we think, do or feel, when taken to an extreme, produces positive results. Yet that is what Tolle's work lacks - the concept of a "happy medium" or "striking a balance". Rather than tackle the hard and imprecise task of learning how to become more rational or discerning in our judgments, he tells us to surrender them entirely because they are inherently concerns that deal only with the past and future. Therefore, there is only "now".
To live in the moment is a good message, but to live in the moment can also be a source of lost motivation, impulsivitiy, and the abdication of responsibility. How many of us, for example, know someone who has an adult teenager who can't hold a job, who has never gone out on their own, and appears to lack any motivation to do so despite good health and adequate education? This form of living in the "now" is not evidence that one has transcended the ambitious aims of the ego, but is often questioned, or deemed "selfish" and "immature". Tolle himself would have been incapable of writing the work, seeking out a publisher or literary agent, and catching Oprah's attention if he were never thinking ahead, only concerned with the present. For the present moment has no goals or aspirations. It is an observer, not an architect.
Unfortunately, the contradictions don't stop there. I know someone who walked into his family home to find a family member shot through the head. Yet in Tolle's view, one must not get caught up in the "human drama" by labeling an event as good or bad, only that it is "so". In the Judeo-Christian view, and also in the Islamic view, we learn to accept "God's will" even though it is often difficult to comprehend. But in Tolle's view, we should not even go so far as to name the harm or hurt, for doing so would be to create a sad story that feeds the pain-body. That, in my opinion, is an unreasonable psychological burden. We are not our pain-bodies, but neither can we divorce ourselves from them. However, you do not sell books by telling people that they must learn how to cope instead of transcend.
In reality, the more challenging skill is not to learn how to remove ourselves - or to pretend that we can dissociate - but to deal with what IS. And what IS is ego. Ego cannot be transcended - though we can ask a higher power to help us resist its darker urges. Consequently, as is true of the physical realm, I don't think we can throw out more time-tested spiritual barometers, by which I mean the reference points that are not self dependent. The moment you rely solely upon yourself for wisdom, you become prey to all the blind spots of self. But when you turn to the Bible, prayer or God for wisdom, there is an opportunity for guidance that comes from without rather than from within.
As for the question of "Why Jesus?", only one teaching originated from someone who was reported by witnesses to have divine powers over life and death (Lazrus was also raised from the dead, as was the Roman soldier's son who had fallen ill, yet Jesus described him only as "asleep"). Jesus made some unique claims and his eyewitnesses made some unusual observations about his abilities, which are NOT duplicated by other religious teachers. So that would be the place I would personally start. Why? Because if we don't follow a God that can transcend the normal human limits, we might as well follow our self-taught "instincts" - providing that we don't mind the likelihood of traveling in circles.
My friend---you are an exceeding brilliant individual. You turn a word like a professional and I applaud your acumen. There is no doubt that you are --"of the world". Undoubtedly you have never studied Gurdjief, Seth or others of that ilk. Further---you have not kept up with modern science. It has been proven, by your rules---that the observer cannot be separated from the observed. That means, my dear sir, that you create your own reality.(Quantum Physics)
A dedicated scientist--C. Daly King--proved that the body--the organism--produces your reality--and you only become aware of it after the fact. Yes, thoughts are produced in the corallary tracts of the cortex--they are not yours, they belong to the organism. There are actually three computers in the organism--the cerebrum---the gangliar and autonomic system and the spinal cord. Together they scan the past and program you to skip the present and dictate the future. You become just a passive registrant.
There is not room here to make you aware of so much more research that points to the FACT that you only see the most basic parts of the neural phenomena your body produces---that you are really unconsciousness----that there is no grey bearded benevolent father figure you call God. There is a God---which is so much more than you now suspect. You are identified with physical reality---but in fact it is only an illusion.
There is no way you can be expected to even suspect this. You live in this world and you are totally identified with its density. There is no blame. You are afraid to separate from your separateness. We are all one. Life is the dancer---you are the dance.
I was shopping for Tolle's "A New Earth" on Amazon because I had heard so much about it and wanted to find out what readers were saying. I find your summary and input extremely helpful and well written. I have tried to work my way through another 'new age' book, that promises enlightenment - but found that while helpful in some areas, several ideas were in conflict with my faith...because it doesn't quite give credit where credit is due.
NewsView, I have a few points to make regarding your very first post on 4/12/08:
1. From the point of view of those living in the 3rd and 4th centuries (A.D.), Christianity was a "New Age" and "rebel" religion. There were many new sects and cults that sprang up during that time. Jesus' teaching were considered rebellious to the extent that his peers the Pharisees wanted him put to death for heresy. 2. Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. The scribes who translated and copied the new testament claimed he claimed to be the Son of God. I refer you to Professor Bart Ehrman's recent book, "Misquoting Jesus." 3. I don't think Tolle ever says that all roads lead to the same path anywhere in this book. 4. You asked, "How do you become enlightened from within, if from within the ego is the filter by which all perceptions pass?" But this isn't Tolle's recommendation in the book, and it makes me wonder if you read the book at all. Tolle would say that ego is the false self that masks and distorts the true self, the good or "God" that is within us. Perhaps that's why Jesus never claimed to be God, but rather that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. 5. Truth is simple, but not easy... the narrow path is necessary to enter. You can't just read words of Jesus in the Bible or Eckhart Tolle and expect to be able to be enlightened or saved, either way you are going to have to make sense of your life. No one else can do it for you, whether they are Jesus Christ or Eckhart Tolle, they can only point the way.
Tim Melancon - Are there books you could recommend that are written in non-scientific prose that talk about the research that shows we are basically unconscious and only comprehend "basic parts of the neural phenomena [our] body produces"? This is fascinating to me.
I have fun explaining matter to my students in classes on healing, in this manner.
My daughter is an artist and does pointillism. She starts with one dot and before you know it the canvas is covered with dots. Form takes place, but when you look closely, the forms are made up of nothing but dots.
I go on to say that we are all made up of dots or waves of light. Everything in the universe is made up of dots. Our conglomeration of dots makes our form. Obviously we are more than that, but bear with me.
I am sure you heard of auras. You might even be able to see the aura that is very close to your body. Dots again. They are quite thick just off the skin as if they are being shed from the body. If you could see the aura away from the body you would notice that the dots become thinner and thinner as they go out from the body. They continue to dissipate out into the world but mingle with other dots from other dillusional forms and in this way too, we are one.
You feel the aura when you approach someone. There is a comfort zone between you and the next person. When they get too close you back off. You are confronting their dots.
I sometimes feel a dissolution of my body and am not identified with its density during this time. I am not aware of my form. It does not exist for me. In this way I experience our formless God and bliss occurs for me.
Yes, it is a beautiful dance. I don't know any other way to explain it. Have fun with this one.
Mary Ann Johnston http://maryannjohnston.blogspot.com
This is an old topic, but statement #4 deserves some clarification: "...Jesus never claimed to be God, but rather that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you."
Yes BathtubWhale, there are those who believe that -- what the Catholic/Protestant/Orthodox churches generally conceive as cults for precisely the reason that they deny the deity of Christ (Father/Son/Holy Spirit trinity). Then there are those who believe by faith because of passages like this in which Jesus speaks in the First Person:
John 2:1-18 (NIV):
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." 3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." 4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" 5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." 9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. 10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No-one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--THE SON OF MAN [emphasis added]. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
I am not stating here that we can't learn valuable lessons and insights from other teachings and traditions. Nevertheless, we are still left with the claims of Christ to make sense of as spiritual seekers. Our choice is to believe that 1) Jesus was a lunatic. 2) Jesus was lying, 3) Jesus is "the only begotten son of God"; exactly who he says He is.
Let's flip this on its side: Would you take a Great Eastern mystic and cherry pick what you believe of his teachings? How then would he be any more enlightened than anyone else were he "mistaken" in his own identity or purpose?
The dilemma here isn't personal. It's an individual choice one must make by prayer, meditation and above all not the assumptions you recall from childhood, media or self-described Christian friends or family members but of a personal reading -- in context -- of Scripture.
For some context to the aforementioned statement "the Kingdom of Heaven is within", what we find in Scripture is not a denial from Jesus Christ but a lead-in to a passage that scholars believe is a reference to the "rapture", a time when the Kingdom of God is made manifest on Earth:
20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, `Here it is,' or `There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." 22 Then he said to his disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 Men will tell you, `There he is!' or `Here he is!' Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 "It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 "It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no-one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no-one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot's wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left."
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.' 4 "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" 6 And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
I wasn't saying that Jesus wasn't God, or that he denied being God. I was saying that Jesus probably never admitted to being God, and that "God" is a source that is available to every human being if they choose to seek what Jesus called "the Kingdom of God". If the source of salvation were limited to the words in just one book, then the situation would be completely hopeless. My point is that God is an internal source that we all share and develop together, not some external being or words in a book, and that this is what I got from Tolle's book.
The books that are in the New Testament were not put there by Jesus. They were voted into the canon by a committee (The First Council of Nicene). Can you imagine any mystic, prophet, or poet (much less "God") allowing a committee to determine which of his words would be made available? Especially if those words were going to save the world? Furthermore, much of the text was translated from Aramaic and then into Greek and Latin. Each time that a scribe translated the text, portions of it had words that were added, mis-translated, or omitted. We do not have an original text of the New Testament. Bible scholars estimate that there are between 200,000 to over 400,000 variants of the New Testament. There are more variations among New Testament manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament. Cherry picking, indeed.
The argument that Jesus claimed that he was God, and that he was either right, crazy, or lying, was first proposed by C.S. Lewis in his book "Mere Christianity", and has been in the Evangelical community ever since. I read this book when I was a kid, and I never understood why there were only three possibilities. Richard Dawkins' argument is: what if he was just wrong? Why does he have to be crazy or a liar? My own view on this is that he probably didn't say he was God, that this was something put there by scribes who had interests in their own position in the Church, but that Jesus had a spiritual intelligence that was more advanced than his peers (which drove them crazy to the point that they conspired to have him killed).
Again, my point is that God is not something or someone "out there" or "up there", but rather something that resides within our own existences - individually, collectively, and simultaneously. I have difficulty "believing in" only one specific set of words that were translated 200,000 - 400,000 times, some by individuals who were probably less spiritually devoted than Jesus. I don't see any other choice than to explore and learn from as many different sources as possible. Call it cherry picking if you will, but I see it as something closer to working out my faith "with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).
I don't question anything you say but was struuck by this: "When they get too close you back off. You are confronting their dots." Why is it that the comfort zone is different in NYC than in Dallas? The culture appears to dictate the comfort zone. It is fun to watch the dance as folks from two different zones adjust to each other.
Other factors control that zone. Social status, self-esteem, et c. Doesn't change the fun of watching the adjustment.