A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Mini “earth” trend here after The Pillars of the Earth.

I was happy to see that I would be reading non-fiction again.  I wasn’t too put off by it seeming to be a self-improvement book; I think reading The Artist’s Way this spring helped inspire me to start the Book Club project and I like to read about cycling training lately.  Self-improvement is a good thing and books can definitely be helpful and inspirational.

Initially, A New Earth resonated with some things I had thinking about.  Tolle talks a lot about meditation and observing your own consciousness.  I am a failed meditator (so far, keep meaning to try some more), but I see a lot of value in it for quieting the running monologue and putting the day’s stresses in perspective.

Tolle’s formulation is unappealing, however, because he says that the goal of meditation is to let go of everything that makes one an individual (interests, intelligence, values) because it is “of the earth” and to get in touch with a universal consciousness.  He challenges readers to look past the actions and characteristics of others to see the universal consciousness in them as well.  But how can I be interested in one person rather than another if I only see their fragment of a universal constant?  The things I love about the people in my life are what make them unique, even if flawed.  I found this aspect of the philosophy recognizable as an outgrowth of various religious traditions of seeking God or the universal in everyone, but taken too far, diminish the meaning of human relationships.

Where  really wrote off Tolle was his leap to the global effect of a lack of higher consciousness.  First, he seems to believe global warming is one such effect, not in the sense that if people were more in tune with themselves they would be more conscious of their effects on the earth, but in the literal sense that lack of transcendance has an effect on natural phenomena.  He also indulges in some “law of attraction” nonsense, which I think is more like blaming the victim.

At times I wanted to put this book down because it so frustrated and annoyed me, but I couldn’t help wondering where it was going.  I found myself mentally rewriting sections to turn Tolle’s ideas into something reasonable and palatable to me.  As with Follett, I know Tolle is immensely popular, but on the basis of this book, I can’t see why.

5 responses to “A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

  1. Initially, I thought Tolle had “the answer” and I still think there is value in focusing on the present moment. The problem for me is that Tolle experienced a radical transformation that calmed his mind and changed his life. He asserts that other people are experiencing this more gradually. But that hasn’t happened to me or anyone I know. In the end he is another guru holding out something that feels beyond my grasp and beyond the grasp of his many readers. I need something available now. I would really be interested in other reactions.

  2. Quite agree that it is the individual that matters. A calm and relaxed mind is a wonderful thing, especially when cycling in traffic. Why should meditation prevent us from seeing the uniqueness in everyone and everything?

  3. This book is a bit different from the others because it does speak in a very direct way about the most important things in life. At a certain level, my critique has to evaluate whether I think he’s got the answers, yet I would not want to criticize people who have found it valuable.

    Leighton, funny you mention cycling in traffic – I had a cycling accident last weekend that was caused by me being overreactive, so maybe I need to give that meditating a try again.

  4. That’s funny. I have just read your next post. The other day I avoided having a really bad accident at a roundabout, while riding my bicycle, because my instinct said stop. A lorry behind me was cutting me off, and if I had continued I don’t think I would be reading your blog today!

  5. Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

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