Eckhart Tolle

eckhart tolle black and white1 201x300 Eckhart TolleEckhart Tolle; born Ulrich Leonard Tolle, 1948) is a German-born Canadian spiritual teacher and bestselling author. He is the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, which were written in English. In 2011, he was listed by the Watkins Review as the most spiritually influential person in the world. In 2008, a New York Times writer called Tolle “the most popular spiritual author in the [United States]“.

He says he was depressed for much of his life until he underwent, at age 29, an “inner transformation”, then spent several years wandering and unemployed “in a state of deep bliss” before becoming a spiritual teacher. Later, he moved to North America where he began writing his first book, The Power of Now, which was published in 1997, and reached the New York Times Best Seller lists in 2000. Tolle has lived in Vancouver, Canada, for over 10 years…
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Recommended books: The Power of Now and A New Earth
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The Power of Now and A New Earth sold an estimated three million and five million copies respectively in North America by 2009. In 2008, approximately 35 million people participated in a series of 10 live webinars with Tolle and television talk-show personality Oprah Winfrey. Tolle’s books and teachings have stimulated much commentary from theologians and journalists. Tolle is not identified with any particular religion, but his work has been influenced by a wide range of spiritual teachings.

Teachings:

Tolle writes in the introduction to his second book, Stillness Speaks, that “A true spiritual teacher does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word, does not have anything to give or add to you, such as new information, beliefs, or rules of conduct. The only function of such a teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth … The words are no more than signposts.”

Tolle says that his book, The Power of Now, is “a restatement for our time of that one timeless spiritual teaching, the essence of all religions”. He writes that religions “have become so overlaid with extraneous matter that their spiritual substance has become almost completely obscured”, that they have become “to a large extent … divisive rather than unifying forces” and become “themselves part of the insanity”.

Tolle writes that “the most significant thing that can happen to a human being [is] the separation process of thinking and awareness” and that awareness is “the space in which thoughts exist”. Tolle says that “the primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it”.

“At the core of Tolle’s teachings lies the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that he sees as the next step in human evolution. An essential aspect of this awakening consists in transcending our ego-based state of consciousness. This is a prerequisite not only for personal happiness but also for the ending of violent conflict endemic on our planet”.

In his book A New Earth, Tolle describes a major aspect of the human dysfunction as “ego” or an “illusory sense of self” based on one’s memories and thoughts, and another major aspect he calls “pain-body” or “an accumulation of old emotional pain”.

Tolle often talks about the relevance of figures in intellectual or popular culture. In A New Earth, he quotes Descartes, Sartre, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Albert Einstein He has spoken of movies such as Groundhog Day, American Beauty, The Horse Whisperer, Titanic, Avatar, Being There, and Forrest Gump, and musicians such as Mozart, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. He arranged an album of music in 2008 entitled Music to Quiet the Mind including work composed by Eric Satie, Claude Debussy and The Beatles, and music by contemporary artists such as Deva Premal, Jeff Johnson and Steve Roach.

Influences

According to a 2009 article in the New York Times, Tolle is “not identified with any religion, but uses teachings from Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism and the Bible”. Tolle has said “I feel actually that the work I do is a coming together of the teaching ‘stream’, if you want to call it that, of [Jiddu] Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi”.

Tolle himself has mentioned texts such as the Tao Te Ching, the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu scriptures, the Buddhist scriptures, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and A Course in Miracles; he has mentioned various individuals such as Zoroaster, Lao Tzu, Mahavira, The Buddha, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Jesus, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, Hafiz, Rinzai Gigen, Ralph Waldo Emerson; and he has emphasised the mystical schools within religions such as Gnosticism in Christianity, Sufism in Islam, Hasidism and Kabbala in Judaism, Advaita Vedanta in Hinduism, and Zen and Dzogchen in Buddhism. He has met and spoken with Barry Long and Don Miguel Ruiz, and he wrote a foreword for The Diamond in Your Pocket by Gangaji.

At the age of fifteen Tolle read several books written by the German mystic Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken, also known as Bô Yin Râ. Tolle has said he responded “very deeply” to those books.

Reception

In 2008, an article in the New York Times referred to Tolle as “the most popular spiritual author in the United States”. In 2011, the Watkins Review put him at number 1 in a list of “The 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People”. By 2009, total sales of The Power of Now and A New Earth in North America had been estimated at three million and five million copies respectively.

The books have received a wide range of praise and criticism. One book reviewer characterized The Power of Now as “awash in spiritual mumbo-jumbo”, while another reviewer wrote, “Tolle’s clear writing and the obvious depth of his experience and insight set it apart”. Celebrity admirers of the book include Tony Hawks, Annie Lennox, Gillian Anderson, Jeff Goldblum, Zach Galifianakis, Oprah Winfrey, Brett Kirk, Meg Ryan, Jim Carrey, Trey Anastasio, Michelle Ang, Rainn Wilson and Dusty Baker.

Some critics characterize Tolle’s books as unoriginal, or even derivative. A 2009 New York Times article said he is “hardly the first writer to tap into the American longing for meaning and success”. Sara Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly, said Tolle’s writings have been successful due to surging public interest in books that tell you how to be more happy, peaceful, successful. James Robinson in The Observer called Tolle’s writings “a mix of pseudo-science, New Age philosophy, and teaching borrowed from established religions”.

However, others praise his re-working and synthesis of traditions. Professor and author William Bloom wrote that “Tolle is offering a very contemporary synthesis of Eastern spiritual teaching, which is normally so clothed in arcane language that it is incomprehensible”, thereby providing “a valuable perspective on Western culture”. Publisher Judith Kendra says, “The ideas [that Tolle is] talking about have been in existence for thousands of years in both Eastern texts and with the great Western mystics, but he’s able to make them understandable”.

Musician Annie Lennox said “Tolle has some kind of special quality that I’ve never encountered before”. Baha’i scholar and poet Jack McLean said “Tolle is no new-age armchair guru, but one who has experienced a radically genuine spiritual transformation … He draws on a number of spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, but he has developed his own original formulation based on personal experience. He remains humble, good-humoured and unaffected by his popular success”

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