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Eckhart Tolle on Religion

July 21, 2008

Perhaps you’ve seen this book in your local bookstore, a #1 New York Times bestseller that was recently added to the Oprah Book Club. Oprah has taken quite a liking to Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. She comments: “I keep this book at my bedside. I think it’s essential spiritual teaching. It’s one of the most valuable books I’ve ever read.” Given the popularity of the book, I decided to crack its cover.

Tolle states his purpose in writing up front: “This book’s main purpose is not to add new information or belief to your mind or to try to convince of anything, but to bring about a shift in consciousness, that is to say, to awaken” (6). I find this statement ironic. If Tolle does not want to convince us of anything, then why did he write the book? Statements like this reoccur throughout the book in an effort to distance his teaching from religion. Regarding religion he writes: Religions, to a large extent, become divisive…They became ideologies, belief systems people could identify with and so use them to enhance their false sense of self.” (15). Though many of Tolle’s assertions are both inaccurate and misguided, his comments regarding religion are often spot on. Religion identifies an in group and an out group based on common adherence to a doctrine, to a belief system. But not only that, adherence to the doctrine becomes the highest expression of that faith. The purest form of the “religion” becomes its doctrine, not its practice. The most spiritual believer then becomes, not the loving, compassionate, kind follower, but the rigid doctrinalist. In the case of Christianity, this is where the judgmental, fundamentalist Christian comes in. His identity is so wrapped up with doctrine that they fail in following and imitating Christ. Alternatively, religious people may gather, not doctrine, but good deeds around themselves for a sense of identity. By performing countless good works (kindness, generosity, prayers, churchgoing, adopting foster children, serving the poor), they begin to think more highly of themselves because they are doing good deeds. They content themselves with doing good to correct their inherent bad. Do gooders become so wrapped up in doing good that they no longer need a Savior. Why? Because their savior is their goodness. This too is religion. Religion by doctrine or by deeds. Tolle comments: “You do not become good by trying to be good…” However, his solution to “becoming good” is also shaky–a new consciousness, an awakening to realize the dysfunctionality of our ego in order to become one with the Being/Consciousness of the universe.

Over the next three weeks I will be addressing some of the themes in Tolle’s A New Earth, which are being podcasted, if you are interested.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2008 7:44 am

    Christianity is evil according to Al Gore and the Green movement.
    The green movement is based on Gaia the pagan earth goddess.
    That is why McGuinty tried to remove the Lord’s prayer from the Ont. legislature. It is also the reason for the attempt to remove God from the national anthem.

    One world govt. requires a one world religion.

    The churches have been led to believe the green movement is godly, it’s exactly the opposite.

    Canadians need to wake up and wake up fast.

    Please read The Green Agenda found on the page bar of my blog.
    It is the best I have found on the subject.
    Read the words of the men that would rule the world and remove the Christian faith.
    Please-read The Green Agenda.
    http://www.windfarms.wordpress.com

    Enjoy your day-very interesting times ahead

    If you are involved in the church I would like to be in touch.

    Ron

  2. spiritualway permalink
    July 21, 2008 8:06 am

    Perhaps Tolle wrote the book to give us some insights into shifting our consciousness.

    Could salvation be described as a shift in consciousness? Sometimes in an instant (“walking the aisle”) and other times a process (a period of study of scripture; the Bible rather than “The New Earth”)

    If I recall, C.S. Lewis came to Christian belief in this manner.

  3. July 21, 2008 8:53 am

    It depends on what we mean by “shift in consciousness”; however, the Bible does not use that language to describe salvation, but instead, uses words that connote, not just a change in consciousness, but an entire rebirth of the the individual, which includes repentance and faith in a personal God.

    For Tolle, there is no place for repentance, faith, or a personal God, just an awakening to our interconnectivity to our Presence and the collective consciousness. He views sin as soemthing we commit against ourselves, not against a personal God.

    So, while agree that salvation is both point and process, I don’t think it is appropriate to call it a “shift in consciousness.” Make sense?

  4. July 21, 2008 12:55 pm

    Thanks for exploring this book. I have been wrestling with deciding to pick it up or not. I read the first chapter and saw some connections, but wasn’t really sure. Now I know how to approach it when I do read it. As far as “religion” goes; No sacrament equals salvation.

  5. spiritualway permalink
    July 21, 2008 1:29 pm

    Salvation that places all the emphasis on a “personal Savior” could develop a faith that sees the benefits and not the obligations of living a Christian life.

    Much of the sin we contend with we as individuals did not create but find ourselves in the middle of it. Might call it sins of the system we live in (the collective consciousness).

    Jesus of the Gospels spoke to this in his Kingdom of God message as well as many of his parables. It is this obligation to all members of society that is sometimes lost when thinking of a personal God.

    I am looking forward to your series on Tolle’s book.

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