Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now for Christians

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” — Matthew 6: 34

I’m a big fan of Eckhart Tolle and his groundbreaking book, The Power of Now. Some people find it a little New Agey but I think it’s a modern spiritual classic well worth a close look.It helped me a lot during a crisis I faced in my own life. I wasn’t a bit surprised when the socialite Parris Hilton was photographed clutching a copy of The Power of Now (along with the Bible) when she was preparing to spend three weeks in jail for what amounted to a traffic ticket.

For Christian yogis, there are many similarities between The Power of Now and such spiritual classics as my personal favorite, Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s Abandonment to Divine Providence – and many important differences as well.

Unlike many “New Age” authors, Eckhart Tolle is very much a part of the “reality based community.”

Aside from his admittedly weird concept of the “pain body,” there are no grand theosophical speculations from him. The Power of Now rings out with the power of common sense. Also, Tolle is remarkably deferential to the western Christian spiritual traditions and few practicing Christians will find much to be offended about in The Power of Now.

What I like about the book is Tolle’s willingness to think through the entire enlightenment process from scratch – and, in a sense, provide a new overview of the human situation outside of traditional (either Eastern or Western) spiritual categories. In a sense, he invents his own synthesis and his own vocabulary. That is probably why people find it such a powerful book. (Tolle does make references to other spiritual traditions, such as Avaita Vedanta and A Course in Miracles, but mostly as a point of reference.)

Another thing I like about it is the radical way Tolle presents his ideas.This makes them very clear and they hit you with incredible force – even if, when you think about things a bit, you’ll probably end up wanting to qualify Tolle’s ideas.

Let me give you an example. For Tolle, time is an “illusion.”He says that over and over again, almost like a mantra.The past no longer exists. The future is not yet. The only thing that actually exists is the Now, the present moment .His entire book is centered around this idea. But of course, even if the past doesn’t exist in the present, that doesn’t make it an “illusion.” An “illusion” is something that appears to exist but doesn’t and never did. The past impacts the present and shapes it – as does the present.But Tolle knows all this. He isn’t speaking philosophically but pedagogically.

Another one of his extreme declarations is that the thinking is a form of mental illness. Like Gurdjieff, Tolle believes that the human mind is almost literally deranged. It spends most of its time dwelling on the past or imagining the future, to the detriment, in Tolle’s opinion, of life in the present. That’s why Tolle can say that, strictly speaking, there are no problems. Most of what people spend all their time worrying about are imagined possibilities for events that may, or may not, occur sometime in the future. In the actual here and now – life as it is lived at the present moment – there are no problems.

One tip: I listened to The Power of Now on CD and I highly recommend it in that way. (I also bought the book to follow along and look things up after listening to the CDs.)Tolle’s gentle, eerie voice – with a tinge of a German accent – is mesmerizing.

For those of you who want a taste of his approach, I am posting a VIDEO of his now-famous talks he gave at the New Age retreat center of Findhorn, in Scotland. It’s really worth listening to.

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