I received the following email from a former CUT member recommending I read the latest (2005) Eckhart Tolle book A New Earth. I think the exchange speaks for itself:
We’re not exactly on the same page, bro, but I did recently cancel an email some organization was sending me badmouthing you.
Anyway, I just wanted to recommend a book titled A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It’s not religion or philosophy but an amazing manual on how we work, “we” being every human being on this planet. Whether you’re a terrorist or a saint, underneath we’re all the same, all brothers and sisters. Amazing book, Sean. Check it out.
To your health and beautiful life. I send you my prayers.
My first response:
Nice to hear from you! Hope you are well.
I’ll take a look at [reviews of] the Eckhart Tolle book, but as you probably know, I’m not a fan of his. I think the new age is only slightly less destructive than traditional religion. I don’t think we’re all the same, we differ dramatically in our genes and cultures. What we do share in common are the human universals–don’t know if that’s what he’s talking about. Somehow I doubt it.
I’d appreciate it if you’d forward me a copy of the email you were sent. I have a special file for hate mail, I’m saving it for a book I may write someday.
Thanks for your good wishes and prayers. The two are, of course, one and the same.
Hey, Sean. I think Tolle’s talking about basic needs—love, companionship, the many things that make us “human.” All dogs, cats, ducks, humans, all species work to fulfill their own unique needs as nature has mandated it. We come from the same seed, so to speak, the same programming, and that is what he addresses. Most importantly, it’s not his personal opinion, it’s what’s so about us. Let me know what you think, but I do encourage you to try to see it as how things work rather than as his opinion. As I’m sure you are aware, we all have to get beyond our own limiting paradigms to see things as they really are. The book has changed my life and put me more in my own driver’s seat.
I’d rather not send you the email, Sean. I put a stop to the email in order to stop the hate. If I put my attention on it, it would only infect me. Life’s too short and too awesome and too beautiful. I’m up here in ____, right now. Talk about beautiful. It’s another paradise on earth, almost as good as _____.
My second reply:
Hey,____, you got my short answer, and for some reason beyond my comprehension, you still think I’d be interested in reading Tolle. Well, here’s my long answer:
Whatever makes you feel in control, I guess. But sometimes things which make us feel better aren’t necessarily true or even good for us. Again, if Tolle is talking about needs, what could he possibly add to either Maslow’s hierarchy or the human universals? I just don’t get it. Why would anyone want to listen to the musings of a non-scientist? If I want to learn about human needs, I would (and have) explore ev-bio, ev-psych, or anthropology. Tolle and others like him are squarely in the camp of woo. They promote a watered down and ultimately meaningless new-age theology. (And of course Oprah loves him.) Don’t want to name any other names, but Deepak Chopra. Examples of other equally useless anti-science hokum would be “The Secret” or What the Bleep?. I don’t torture myself with such media excretions except to deconstruct them. And often times, I don’t even need to bother. There are plenty of others who’ve done it for me. (Please don’t tell me science is my “religion” or that I have “faith in science”–I’ve already taken that one apart.) Here’s my recent reading list of knowledge-based works (fiction excepted).
Tolle is also kind of cultish. Worse, he uses the same kind of scare tactics as CUT–like we’re all in some kind of race to obliterate the human ego and the “pain-body” before they destroy the earth. The ‘ticking clock’ once again…Bollocks. We are our egos. We hold memories of pain for a good reason–to avoid repeating mistakes.
I don’t know if you heard about the Eckhart Tolle “walk of death.” I wrote about it last year, and it’s well documented. After listening to Tolle’s Power of Now tapes repeatedly, Brianna Wilkins walked miles without warm clothing (thinking only of the present moment, I’m sure) in the middle of winter and…”Now,” she’s dead. Disgusting.
Humans are not broken–mostly just confused. We may not know ourselves so well, but we’re operating exactly as nature intended. We’re greedy, competitive, with a short attention span, seeking instant gratification. But we’re also kind, long-suffering, generous, wise, and empathetic–with the two camps always in conflict within each of us. Solutions to human problems will come from realist introspection and acknowledging of the darkness, e.g. more rationality and less mysticism. We can start that process right here, right now–with our egos and pain-memories intact–not in some future idealized fantasy world.
Change also won’t come overnight but occurs through an evolutionary process. That’s what else ticks me off about the new-age tripe: It dresses itself up in the conceit of spirituality, but actually panders to the very ordinary materialistic drive towards the “quick fix,” the effortless “new you.” Well, you don’t get something for nothing. Or much for $11.20.
I’m always very suspicious when people say something is not their subjective opinion. Such statements require extraordinary evidence and corroboration–evidence we don’t have and can’t get right now about the human mind. Human nature is variable and elusive and has been used to argue for or against many political and philosophical positions throughout the past several centuries. We have broad brush strokes of knowledge about it. But for the refinements, I’m personally willing to wait until studies of DNA and gene expression catch up to functional brain research. I’m willing to wait until human cognitive processes are mapped, simulated, and duplicated on synthetic hardware. Then and only then will we be able to say anything definitive about the question of consciousness. Intellectual giants such as Dawkins, Kurzweil, Pinker, Ridley, Dennett, Minsky, Buss, Alper and others are much closer to useful knowledge about this subject than Tolle. (Who dropped out of school at 13 and “attained enlightenment at the age of 29 after suffering long periods of depression.”) Yeesh. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
So,_____, you think you can get “infected” from an email? Ha. There’s that new age “purity” meme again. I’ve been seeing that crop up more and more–but always as a cover for something else. Why did you bother telling me about the email if you weren’t going to forward it? That’s a schoolyard tactic: “I know something you don’t know, NA-na-na-na-NA-na.” Definitely doesn’t engender my trust, nor help you be more honest with yourself about where you stand. Clearly, I’m outspoken and I have a number of detractors. I don’t have a problem if you’re protecting them. That’s a position I can at least understand. But why hide behind some kind of magical thinking about an “infectious” email? Where does that kind of statement even come from? I’m mystified.
Life is indeed short, but it’s not all love, light and beauty. Your thoughts don’t control matter, regardless of how hard you pray they might, or wish they could. You can read all the books you want and change your mind all you want and you’re still you. The more you run from your animal nature, ego, and ancestral tree, the more likely they are to cause you difficulties. Better to embrace your darkness, get to know your major voices, archetypes and conflicts, and hold the tension of these inner opposites. I’ve found there are fewer surprises that way.
Here’s something I wrote in 2001 to illustrate how any god must necessarily include all aspects of human shadow–if such an entity existed: God Is…A Solstice Prayer
I also think you might enjoy Bravest Face by Neil Peart
There’s also How Personal Shadow Work is Integral to Perceiving Reality by morgaine