“Awakening or spiritual realization is the discovery that you don’t need to add anything to yourself in order to be yourself fully. You don’t need to try to become good, but allow the goodness that is within you, inherent in Being and inseparable from who you are, to emerge.” Eckhart Tolle, compare with the passage from Luke 22, below
Kathy Juline of Science Of Mind, interviewed Eckhart Tolle, one of the most popular spiritual thinkers/authors in the US. Read his answers to the questions…if you are bogged down by the new age-y language, where he talks about consciousness, read ‘awareness of God’. Where he speaks of ego, think of that as a state where you are putting your own thinking and mind in the place of God, just as the ancients put golden calves or any number of other things in the place of god. This is a break in your relationship with God, which has been called the definition of sin. In any case, ET is not a Christian theologian, and his writings have rubbed some Christians very wrong (see below, reception by Christian theologians). But I have found his ideas helpful in my pursuit of a practical Christian life.
Using this short except as a basis of some of his ideas, what do you think about his assertions?
- Ego as a source of anger, resentment, fear, envy, (my words – i.e. separation from others and God.)
- Awareness as an antidote to ego, (my words – and a way to closer relationship to God?)
- Have you tried any of this before? What was the result?
See you tomorrow in the library. Bring toilet paper and a friend.
Excerpts from Science of Mind (SOM) Interview with Eckhart Tolle
SOM: Why is it a desirable practice to free the mind from thinking?
Tolle: Thinking, or more precisely identification with thinking, gives rise to and maintains the ego, which, in our Western society in particular, is out of control. It believes it is real and tries hard to maintain its supremacy. Negative states of mind, such as anger, resentment, fear, envy, and jealousy, are products of the ego. When the ego is in control, these states of mind appear to us to be justified and also to be caused by some external factor. Usually another person is blamed for these feelings. Their true cause, however, is not to be found in the content of your life, but in the very structure of the egoic mind. It needs enemies because it defines its identity through separation, and so it emphasizes the other-ness of others. For this reason, letting the ego be in control leads ultimately to violence, fighting, and war. This is madness, but the ego doesn’t see it that way.
The film A Beautiful Mind does a good job of depicting how the mind can delude us if we are not aware that it is controlling us. It’s the true story of a man who is a genius but he’s also insane. The audience doesn’t know that he’s insane until he himself realizes it as the story unfolds. The film makes the point that when you become aware that you are insane, you are no longer insane. So when you become aware of your mind, you are not identified with your mind anymore. A new dimension of consciousness has come in. The madness is caused by thinking without awareness, and thinking without awareness is how the ego keeps us in its grip.
SOM: Can you suggest some ways to stay focused in the now?
Tolle: One thing we can do is to notice the little things all around us, paying attention to details such as the birds in the trees and the flowers in the garden or the park—just notice the beauty everywhere, even the smallest things. To notice seemingly insignificant things requires alertness. That alertness is the key. It is the unconditioned. It is consciousness itself. Another helpful practice is to watch the breath, and breathe consciously. If we are paying attention to our breath, we cannot be thinking of anything else at the same time. Our attention is in the now moment and not on our worries about yesterday or our plans for what we will do next week. We are just breathing, not thinking. Because the practice of breath meditation takes us out of the activity of thought, it is an effective way to awaken. In fact, breath, because it has no form as such, has traditionally been equated with spirit, the formless One Life. In the German language, the word atmen, meaning “breathing,” is derived from atman, which in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India , refers to the innermost essence or universal self.
SOM: You speak in your book of the ego’s incessant wanting and its insatiable need for more. Wouldn’t certain things we want be considered worthwhile, though, such as wanting to become a better person?
Tolle: The desire to become a better person is usually to do with wanting to improve how I feel about myself, how I see myself, or how I am seen by others. It is to do with mental image-making, that is to say, ego. That includes, of course, wanting to become enlightened or more spiritual. Awakening or spiritual realization is the discovery that you don’t need to add anything to yourself in order to be yourself fully. You don’t need to try to become good, but allow the goodness that is within you, inherent in Being and inseparable from who you are, to emerge.
Tolle’s Reception by Christian theologians
Some Christian scholars have spoken against Tolle’s teachings. James Beverley, Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, says that Tolle’s worldview “is at odds with central Christian convictions” and that “Tolle denies the core of Christianity by claiming there is no ultimate distinction between humans and God and Jesus”. John Stackhouse, a professor of theology and culture at Regent College in Vancouver, says that Tolle “gives a certain segment of the population exactly what they want: a sort of supreme religion that purports to draw from all sorts of lesser, that is, established religions”. Stackhouse also questions Tolle’s integrity[clarification needed] by critiquing some public statements as contradictory to his own teachings.
But, noted one journalist, “Tolle does have fans in academic, even Christian, circles”. Theologian Andrew Ryder wrote that “Tolle’s writing is based on his own experience and personal reflection. This makes his approach to the challenge of living in the present moment both practical and fresh” even though “he may not use the language of traditional Christian spirituality”.
Stafford Betty finds common ground between Tolle’s worldview and that of Christian mystics. He notes that “one of the key elements in Tolle’s teaching is that deep within the mind is absolute stillness in which one can experience ‘the joy of Being'”. Betty says that such a view is comparable to the view of contemporary Catholic monk Thomas Keating who wrote that “We rarely think of the air we breathe, yet it is in us and around us all the time. In similar fashion, the presence of God penetrates us, is all around us, is always embracing us, and it is delightful”. Betty also says that “for Mr. Tolle, God is in the world in a more radical way than for the Christian” and that Tolle’s theology “is only a footnote to the therapy he holds out to his audience”.
Roman Catholic priest and theologian Richard Rohr credits Tolle for helping to reintroduce ancient Christian mysticism to modern Christians: “Tolle is, in fact, rather brilliantly bringing to our awareness the older tradition . . . [which is] both the ground and the process for breaking through to the theological contemplation of God, and acquired contemplation of Jesus, the Gospels, and all spiritual things. He is teaching process, not doctrine or dogma. He is teaching how to see and be present, not what you should see when you are present. Tolle is our friend, and not an enemy of the Gospel. There should be no conflict for a mature Christian.”
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.