I want to like Eckhart Tolle's work. I just can't get there from here.

9 years ago

I want to like Eckhart Tolle.

Oprah does. And I like Oprah and admire her spirit.

But her latest foray into spiritual development - live web-broadcasts each week about the book "A New Earth : Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" by Tolle has me stymied. I have been trying to read it for weeks. I've listened to some of the webasts. I keep jamming up. Apparently there are millions and millions of people who would disagree with me. They dial up Oprah every Monday night to listen in. Bazillions have bought the book. I keep reading it and sputtering "but - but - but -......"

A quote from Tolle follows. This is typical of the logic in his book.

"If the structures of the human mind remained unchanged, we will always stand up and be creating fundamentally the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction."

(OK Tolle, I get it. This seems right. But then he follows immediately with this ...)

"Collective human consciousness and life on our planet are intrinsically connected. A new have been is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness. And a new earth is it’s reflection in the physical realm. Since human life and human consciousness are intrinsically one with the life of the planet, as the old consciousness dissolves, there are bound to be synchronistic geographic and climatic natural upheavals in many parts of the planet, some of which we are already witnessing now."

Wait, wait wait! Since human life and human consciousness are intrinsically one with the life of the planet, as the old consciousness dissolves, there are bound to be synchronistic geographic and climatic natural upheavals in many parts of the planet, some of which we are already witnessing now.

Read that slowly ....this means that as consciousness changes, global climate and geographic upheaval will follow. OK, I can see that if we feel more connected to the earth we will recycle more, etc. But that isn't what Tolle is saying. As crazy as it sounds, what he says is what he says. Get conscious and watch for the weather and the earth's geography to change because of it.

Plus, Tolle seems to be a Philosophy by Cuisinart -- a blend of Buddhism, Hinduism, A Course in Miracles, pop culture and a dash of Christianity which he contorts to fit. I am all for inclusiveness and learning from other religions, but there is a sense that Tolle twists things up to fit his ideas.

For example...in speaking of sin (p9 ) Tolle points out that the word in the original Greek means "to miss the mark" and that it is an archer's term. He then says immediately "so, sin means to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly and so to suffer and cause suffering."

No, Eckhart, it mens to "miss the mark". And there are examples after examples of muzzy-headed logic. I got tired of saying "HUH???"

So I turned to the Great Blogosphere and found:

Gigi Reynard at her blog, eBooks about says:

These types of books and spiritual teachers set my teeth on edge anyway. The only way I know to learn how to "live a day at a time" is to practice doing it. Reading about how to do it, talking about how you should do it and chasing the latest guru won't do it.
I am not sure that Oprah and Tolle have much to say that applies to most of us. Oprah has found her life purpose: a popular talk show host and philanthropist. Tolle has found his: making money trafficking off people's quest for a better life.
You can bet, come Monday night I will be otherwise occupied!

The entirely scathing review on Fox News is balanced by Melissa at Hoosier in Canada who says:

Can you tell that Oprah and I are close - at least in my mind, we are. There’s still two more weeks of online discussion left and Oprah is being called the Anti-Christ and a few other names that I probably shouldn’t write in my blog. Regardless, how can this be all bad - here’s a woman (Oprah) and a man (Eckhart) trying to help others through their online book discussion. And the help that they’re trying may provide purpose to the lives of many. Even if it helps one person, isn’t that good?

Karen Williams' blog says with an eye to tolerance:

At any rate, I'm "getting it" that analyzing someone else's belief system - whether it's a high-profile spiritual teacher or Joe Schmoe next door - to see where it's like mine and where it differs doesn't necessarily serve me well. I want to notice the parts that feel good to notice and let it go at that. Finding commonality feels a lot better than feeling sharp edges of discord.

ihyprsts of Mom Exchange iiis also positive:

I find myself in Fully Booked or in power Books, searching for literary inspiration. I glanced (not looked) for a mere 2 seconds at this book and I took it from the shelf with no second thought. I've been having a long spat of depression lately and it felt like it would never go away; that was until I came across this book.
I didn't buy it because it had Oprah's Book Club sticker on it. I didn't buy it because of Eckhart Tolle. I didn't buy it because I was looking for purpose in my life. I didn't even bother to check the price tag. It just called to me. The timing of this book was perfect as I found almost instant relief from all the drama that's been happening around me.

Katia also, loved it

Turns out A New Earth is a life-changing book — who needs to go see a counselor/therapist, who needs to sit at a guru’s feet, when you can read this book? And talk about helping you relate to every other human in your circle: your significant other, kids, your parents, co-workers, friends… EVERYone. This book is awesome.

There are a raft of right wing Christian blogs that accuse Oprah of starting a new religion, ushering in the anti-Christ and/or being a traitor to Christianity. And, there are a variety of New Age seminar sellers that are promoting these webcasts as thoughts that will save the earth from immediate peril. I'll tell you that these blogs are out there, in fairness to an accurate profile of the Blogosphere, but I'm not linking to these two extreme positions.

So I tried reading on again today, tried to plow through the text one more time. I got comfy, poured myself some iced tea, snuggled up in my favorite chair and began. Tolle was discussing "negative" feelings, like "anger, anxiety, hatred, discontent, envy, jealousy and so on.." (pg 110 ANE). He viewed them as functions of the ego. Then he goes on (p 111):

"Whenever you are in a negative state there is something within you that wants the negativity, that perceives it as pleasurable or perceives that it will get you what you want. Otherwise who would want to hang on to negativity, make themselves and others miserable, and create disease in the body? "

I then started to burn.
This is the great chasm into which I see much NewAge thought collapse .

It is written by and for comfortable persons, persons who are not AIDS orphans in Africa, not starving in Darfur, not raped in Bosnia. These are not people who have been tortured in prison, beaten because they are gay, savaged by acts of senseless violence. They are not starving, not afraid of how they will house their families, not homeless, not shot by random gunfire. If they were, they could never write such words. There are people in the world who have a right to negative feelings - who are in legitimate pain, who suffer needlessly -- not needlessly because they are indulging their egos, but needlessly because help was not given when it could have been, should have been

Everyone needs to grapple with negative feelings. But it is no crime to feel them, and it would be a sign of a dead soul in some cases who did not feel the stings and pain of injustice. Rage at injustice has caused change for the better. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

But on Tolle's ivory tower, the world looks very different.

I may be the only one out here with such a reaction -- I have no idea. Please dissuade me from my reaction if you can. I take no pleasure in it. I know that some things he says are helpful. But sorting through the chaff to find the wheat ...well, I am running out of the will to do it.

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