"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.