on March 6, 2008
Back in 2000 I read Tolle's "The Power of Now" (TPON), and thought so highly of it that I included it in the "Must Read" list at the end of my own book. As such, I figured "A New Earth" just might be as valuable to me as TPON was at that time.
I read this book over a weekend and my first impression was that it was a solid effort, and that it was essentially a hybrid of TPON, with the primary difference being that it's written in a prose as opposed to a Q&A format. The fact that it's similar to TPON isn't necessarily a negative, for that book had some very valuable content in it that's clearly worth hearing again.
Is it a life changing work? Well, the truth is it all depends on YOU. If you're considering buying it because Oprah recommends it, but you haven't read a single book in the spiritual growth/personal growth category in the past, then my sense is that you might become a bit frustrated with its esoteric nature. A better choice as a first book might be "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz, as he likewise addresses the power of the mind to overtake us if we don't learn to cultivate the ability to step back from its ramblings. A book I read recently that would also be a wonderful first title to read in the category is called "The Belief Formula" by Pete Koerner, as it talks in detail about thoughts and provides practical ways to get more in control of them. This book would be of particular benefit to anyone who would like a bridge from traditional religious training to the more mystical teachings of authors like Eckhart Tolle.
If, on the other hand, you are a person who has read a few to several books in this category, then "A New Earth" is another quality title to read as you continue to walk your path of self-discovery. If you've already read TPON by Tolle, as noted above you'll notice some obvious similarity between the two books, but this book does have some new content that is certainly worth reading.
One thing I didn't like is that the book's subheading, (i.e., Awakening to Your Life's Purpose) suggests that this topic is a major point of discussion throughout the book, but actually it's not. The whole idea of "life purpose" isn't addressed in any significant way until chapter nine of a 10 chapter book. And, when it is talked about, it's not by any means a primer on how to identify your purpose in this life from a worldly point of view (what you are to do while you are here). Note that Tolle's discussion about purpose is on a much deeper, mystical level.
As a final point, before buying this book I took the time to read a broad cross-section of reviews about it on Amazon.com (from 1 star to 5 stars). One thing I did find troubling in some of the negative reviews was the Oprah bashing that some chose to do. People who think that her sole motivation for getting behind this book so aggressively was to create yet another financial windfall, or to establish some sort of new religion are, in my view, sorely mistaken. Anyone can see that she really does care about the world, and is committed to doing something to raise global consciousness. What's so wrong with that? If you don't like what she's doing then don't buy the book.
on June 25, 2008
I love this book. Tolle describes ancient truths and applies them to life in the 21st century in a way that is inspiring and comforting. I took away from this book three simple, yet profound ideas. First and foremost, Tolle believes that we are all connected to each other and that everything we do matters and has an impact on our world. His second idea lies in the power of listening: he suggests that if we can quiet our egos long enough to truly listen, it is possible to feel a sacredness and inner harmony where everything has its perfect place. And lastly, the author speaks of the power of awareness. The moment you notice a pattern of behavior that is no longer working for you, you are a success.
Reading this book reminded me of the writings of two of my favorite authors: Ariel and Shya Kane. In their books Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment, Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: A Book About Instantaneous Transformation and How To Create a Magical Relationship[, the Kanes teach a fun and easy way to live fully and joyously in the moment. Their approach is practical and magical at the same time. If you like Tolle's work you're bound to love the Kane's. All of these books are treasures to be enjoyed.
on February 21, 2006
I have read Eckhart Tolle's previous works and believe him to be one of the most important spiritual teachers of the 20th and 21st centuries. I had waited very patiently however for this book which he took most of last year to write because when someone of his caliber takes so much time to write a book about enlightenment and the ego you know it's got to be good. The title didn't grab me so much though as the content. This book in one fell swoop has given me more food for thought concerning who I am and who and what this personality is up to than any other spiritual book I've ever read. It's a sobering look at who I am and how devious the ego can be. It has helped me see many of my problems are due to my ego instead of it being all those others in my life. If you're ready to face yourself and who you are up to now you've come to the right place. This book will show you all your games and guises and help you get back to the real you underneath it all. It may be the best step on the most ultimate path we all must eventually take towards a New Earth and our true purpose in life.
on November 26, 2005
If you got the concepts in the Power of Now, and love the simple, easy-to-understand message of that book, you will find a "going deeper" happening with this one.
I've always been one to disagree with spiritual teachers about the ego - that it's basically all bad. If it's bad, why did God create it? My feeling is if it is here on Earth, it belongs, even though we may not understand why.
That said, Eckhart clearly defines, with excellent examples, how our identification with the ego (and not the ego itself, mind you) keeps us from simply being in the present and instead tied to thoughts, concepts, mind-stuff, endless identification with people, places, and things. He shows us the many forms and faces that the ego takes up, and shows us the fallacy of identifying with forms in the first place.
To identify so completely with form is to identify with that which is doomed to extinction, causing us loss and sadness. Wouldn't it be better if we simply observed things from an aware state, and not get so caught up in them? This is Eckhart's goal, to get us to a place where we can see the benefits of raising our awareness, and actually wanting to do so.
Ah, easier said than done, I hear you say. Within the pages of A New Earth, Eckhart gives us precisely the tools we need to recognize and become aware of own folly. From that higher state of awareness, the flowers of enlightenment can bloom. And voila, a New Earth is born.
I find this book a great comfort.
This is an interesting book to review because I can tune in and see what is happening to people who read it and get a close up look at the author using his philosophy to answer questions. While I applaud Oprah for this novel approach to bettering the human race, I take issue with both this author and his book.
I read Tolle's first book and found it to be a boring rehash of Buddhism. Because Oprah was so high on his second I figured I'd give him another try and join the book club. I thought it would be interesting to see a book "in action" and discuss it with others. I even sent a copy to my sister who could use a bit of computer recreation since she now lives in a very small town. This book is better than the first in that it is a better compilation of Buddhist thought. However, it rambles constantly, draws conclusions from encounters that are not necessarily justified and the attitude of its author (who sees himself as enlightened and continuously "conscious" and egoless), is laughable. Tolle's vanity is nothing short of astounding. Buddhism isn't a pill, it is a practice and awakening has many layers. In spite of this, Tolle has tons of people saying that they have awakened. On one hand adherents claim to be valiantly battling their ego's while on the other they flaunt their "awakening", telling others who claim to be in serious pain to simply read page such and such or tell their "pain body," to effectively shut up and go away. Yikes!!!
While it is true that you can't blame the messenger for what people do with the message (Jesus protect me from your followers!) Tolle adopts a similar attitude toward others on the streaming video. His dead pan delivery of jargon in response to questions does not impress me as enlightened or egoless. It might behoove him to remember that those Zen stories he includes in the book were once used by master to deliver highly specific teachings that met the needs of particular students. He has turned awakening into a race....to what I am not sure, but I do know that enlightenment is not a competitive event. A few months from now there are going to be a lot of people with one hell of a philosophical hangover caused by all those subconscious drives they never bothered to examine and thought they'd left in a dumpster somewhere.
I keep waiting for the day when someone writes a version of Buddhism for the working mom. I think that person should herself be a mother with at least one ADHD child. She should be clinically depressed and have a couch potato for a husband. If she manages to help the child grow into someone with a good marriage and a real profession, I'll buy all of her books. Unfortunately what we keep getting are philosophies created by self-satisfied, introverted, childless, hermits like Tolle. There is nothing wrong with an introverted, childless, hermit being self-satisfied. What is wrong is suggesting that his way of being represents THE path to enlightenment for everyone. I would say that all he has found in Buddhism is a treatment for his (self acknowledged) form of depression and suicidal thoughts. I am glad he is well and happy and wish him the best....but I won't buy anymore of his books because they are just Buddhism repackaged and linked to an attitude I am not fond of.
I have mixed feelings about "A New Earth". While I thought some very good points were made, I didn't find it easy to read because the style of writing is so dense. Many of the ideas that Tolle presents are not original (e.g. how we interpret people or events is a result of our own thoughts or egos, we must strive to live in the present moment), but they are still well made and thought-provoking.
Some parts of the book do get hard to follow. While Tolle acknowledges this, he also tells us that if we find the book incomprehensible and meaningless, it means that we have not begun the process of awakening - i.e. any fault is with the reader, which strikes me as a cop out. Tolle also implies that his view is the only correct way of viewing the world, with sentences like: "If you don't become speechless when looking out into space on a clear night, you are not really looking, not aware of the totality of what is there."
My main criticism of this book is that I didn't find it of much help in a practical sense. Tolle talks a lot about how you can effect change in yourself by bringing awareness to situations. This has not been my personal experience - while I agree it's the first step, I think sometimes we need a little more "how-to" guidance if we are to make real change. Often when I was reading this book I'd think: "wow, that's such a great point he's just made", but then it would get kind of lost as the book moved on. And ultimately it comes across as being a bit selfish. This idea that your spouse may leave you and your friends may drift away when you achieve spiritual growth, but that's all for the good.
To get the most out of "A New Earth", you probably want to read it slowly and let each chapter sit with you for a while before moving onto the next. Even better, have someone to discuss it with as you go and help you to explore the apparent contradictions e.g. when Tolle says on one hand that you don't want to dwell on the future but stay in the present, and then on the other hand he says that you must have a goal or vision that you are working towards. There is definitely a lot of interesting material in here, but I have found other books to be more accessible and useful.
on May 24, 2008
People do become spiritually liberated. I have met such people as best I can tell and encountered charlatans, too. There are many, also, who achieve some relief from suffering by encapsulating that suffering in a well-defended belief system. It is my impression that such is the case with Mr. Tolle. Tolle's flat emotional delivery of the audiobook further suggests that he has encapsulated rather than resolved his inner struggles (this is known as "spiritual bypass"). In contrast, the liberated and advanced people I encountered were not afraid to have a personality but came across as lively and vibrant.
When I started listening, I was at first pleased that someone was explaining the distortions of ego in simple language. But I found myself with the growing impression that Tolle demonizes the ego and the thinking mind and thus creates a false enemy within. I don't want to demonize him, however. He offers many useful insights. Chief among them, he suggests many ways to recognize the illusion of identifying with one's thoughts and feelings and thus not being fully present. But there are important errors in this book, and its stance overall seems distorted. I came across several statements he made authoritatively that are untrue. Here are two of them.
The most important error is Tolle's statement that one cannot prepare for awakening, which can only be realized as an act of Grace. Yes, sometimes awakening seems to emerge from Grace. But such a statement unnecessarily quashes hope. Consider Jesus' admonition to "knock, and the door shall be opened." Also, consider the detailed instructions in meditative traditions about how to build concentration and insight (in Buddhism, shamata and vipasyana), as well as what issues to contemplate to realize the immanent divinity in all of us (see the Tibetan Buddhist Lojong or mind-training slogans).
Although much of Tolle's book comes from the Buddhist tradition, he gets his history wrong. He sees the Buddha as the first to achieve full awakening 2600 years ago. However, Buddhism was a response to the ancient wisdom teachings of India that go back at least 7000 years. A review of those ancient teachings (which are called Sanatana Dharma) reveals that its seers were obviously liberated in a similar way to the Buddha. That is the historical and archeological record, but one can't thus conclude that people didn't fully awaken before that time.
Tolle's and other New Age teachings typically lack the depth and safeguards of mature spiritual traditions that have an extensive scriptural basis, well-developed practices, and which all require a qualified teacher to help the aspirant achieve that which cannot be captured in words. If Tolle relied on such a teacher and tradition, he would not make such errors.
I am told that the Catholic tradition embodies such teaching in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. These require an experienced confessor. Tibetan Buddhism is beautifully explained by many. A good place to start is the two-CD set by H. H. Dalai Lama 14th, Tenzin Gyatso, on The Four Noble Truths. You will find there a subtlety of understanding and an admonition that moksha or liberation is developed through long, patient, and determined practice. Meditation with the help of an advanced teacher, a qualified lama, is essential in that tradition -- and I can tell you from experience this is effective beyond what one could imagine. In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, Layayoga by Goswami is a definitive source book for readers with the patience for a detailed explanation by someone who obviously knew what he was writing about. Here, too, one gets an outline of what may be required, extracted from 280 scriptural sources. But there's no replacement for an adept yogi who is connected with a living, oral lineage guiding one's practices. If you are fortunate enough to find such a teacher, you are carefully assessed before being guided in practice. Then the results are dramatic and unmistakable, and one finds oneself not at the peak, but at the foot of the mountain of the spiritual journey.
If you are interested in Tolle's book, then you are already spiritually curious. You can set foot on the path of return. To do so, find a tradition that speaks truth to you, that produces spiritually advanced people who are kind, have integrity, are not on some power trip, that don't require all of your money or claim that no other tradition can lead you home. Find a tradition that does not make you discard your own sense of truth to adopt its beliefs. Spiritual truth holds up to the test of lived experience. Work directly with an advanced practitioner after you have carefully examined and tested whether you can deeply trust them. Anyway, you must ultimately walk your own path with the teacher's help. Find a tradition that points out the opportunities for realization in everyday life, and that has a well-developed scriptural base. The scriptures are a safeguard against the kinds of errors found in Tolle's book. Lived experience and scientific findings are safeguards against culturally-bound dogma. Scriptures of spiritual depth also contain profound meaning that can only be hinted at in words and may only be realized through lived experience. The teacher's role is to safely guide you in having such experiences yourself.
on December 14, 2005
I have been on a spiritual quest for 40 years always searching for enlightenment. Mr. Tolle's approach has been my focus for the last few years and I find it to be an excellent path. He has managed to translate all the truth into a clear message supported by the words of wisdom of many great spiritual teachers. It's a simple message. No need to seek enlightenment, we are already there. Always have been...always will be. The challenge is finding awareness of the actions of the ego...sometimes uncontrollable...and separating those actions from our true self which is part of the unmanifested. It's like we're Dr. Jykell (the unmanifested) and Mr. Hyde (the ego).
The concept of the New Earth is something that I have felt for a long time. We humans as a species are evolving to the next level of being where awareness of unmanifested and the ego will be more balanced as a result the insanity we see all over the planet will start to dissipate revealing The New Earth which is already there.
on May 18, 2008
The book is 316 pages, & has 10 chapters with 2-11 parts in each. This book is better than the first in that it gives more details on Buddhist beliefs.
However, the authors vanity & EGO are sometimes shocking. He jumps to conclusions from experiences that don't appear "egoless." He has made the pursuit of being "awakened or enlightened" into a western style competitive race. Chapter 5 was drivel pyschbabble & even had historical mistakes. Ex: The pre-Christian cultures he mentioned on page 156 revered females? If that was true, why did they sell their own women into slavery?
Also, the ideas the author presents are not original & his tone is a bit patronizing & contradictory. When he states that you should not dwell on the future, but stay in the present. But, a moment later he states that you must focus on a vision or goal that you are striving to reach. One could simply read the works of the authors he listed on page 131. Life is far more complex & transitory than he seems to indicate.
"Dukkha, or suffering is part of life." Mindful practice is all we can truly focus on. It is not an escape from the stresses we all have in our daily lives. On page 273, he states "the decision arrives ready made. It comes through awareness, not through thinking." I can't speak for others, but one often will have to think to be fully aware. I found pages 234-7 to be the wisest examples in the book. Then again, I learned these things from episodes of the 1970's show "Kung Fu." Lastly, I recommend folks read Daniel Goleman's "EQ," for both ego & emotional information. While "mindfullness" is well covered in the Dalai Lama's "The Art Of Happiness."
on March 21, 2008
The insights Tolle talks about have been around for at least 2000 years. Basically he is talking about principles of Bhuddism and Taoism that have been studied and taught for generations. His "enlightenment" has been shared by adepts by the thousands.
If you've never been exposed to these teachings, this will be valuable.
If you've read any contemporary books on Bhuddism or Taoism or mindfulness, this will just be old stuff rewritten. It isn't new revelation by a modern prophet.