We’ve been reviewing Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” here at Deeper Waters. Last night, we discussed the nature of truth. Naturally, I disagreed with much of what Tolle said in the section on truth and think that he did contradict himself later on with the usage of a Shakespeare quote. Tonight though, we’re going to try to establish what his view of God is.
This is a difficult one and I fluctuate between describing it as pantheism or panentheism. Readers of my blog regularly will remember I was reading this book when I visited the beach recently and noted that if one goes to a place like that and is not tempted with pantheism, then there is something dead in them. Note again that I think pantheism is wrong, but absent of revelation, which seems to be the problem in the book, I can understand how someone would reach that conclusion.
Now let’s look at the texts.
To start with, Tolle describes an Earth that one day had color and scent come over it, that is, if a perceiving consciousness had been there to perceive it. One point here that might be nit-picky. Wouldn’t there be colors and scents even if there was no one there to perceive them? I seriously doubt that the books in my room change color when I go away. However, the perceiving consciousness statement is odd. Is he excluding God from this? If so, we have a form of pantheism with an impersonal type of Brahman.
This could be the case also when later on in speaking of birds he says “Like all life-forms, they are, of course, temporary manifestations of the underlying one Life, one Consciousness.” (Page 4) Does Tolle believe this one Life and one Consciousness to be God? He doesn’t come right out and say it, but it seems a fair implication, especially since it’s capitalized.
Later on page 22, we read about the ego and how it is being connected with forms. Tolle states “This results in a total unawareness of my connectedness with the whole, my intrinsic oneness with every ‘other’ as well as with the Source. This forgetfulness is original sin.”
First off, in Christian thought, original sin means that we are all tainted with the sin of Adam. The problem is that we are cut off from the Source being God, of course, but the difference is that in Christian thought we are not in oneness with God. We are all distinct within the creation and we are all distinct from the creator, though we do bear his image.
On page 26, we read “Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird, could show you the way back to God, to the Source, to yourself.” One wonders how it is that Tolle can explain if we are God how we lost our way from ourselves. As a Christian who believes in the argument from beauty, I do believe a stone or a bird could lead you to God. I also believe though that without further special revelation from him, you will probably not know much of who he is. Could this be the problem with Tolle? In an earlier post, I described creation as God flirting with us. Could it be Tolle is taking the flirting as the end all when God is only hinting at so much more? Is he replacing the fulfillment of love with foreplay?
On page 57 we read “You realize your essential identity as formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, all identifications. You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness had identified with. That’s the peace of God. The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am.”
I really don’t see how a Christian can read something like that and accept that. Christians should know that “I AM” is the divine name God reveals himself by in Exodus 3:14. God alone can refer to himself as that for God alone is eternal and is not “I was” or “I will be.” (This is also one of the reasons English teachers often discourage their students from using words am and are.)
Friends. Many of us may be on quests to “find ourselves” at times and we can remember the words of the Oracle of Delphi to “Know thyself” but I can assure you of this.
You are not God.
I can also assure some of you who may be concerned with a greater threat.
I am not God either.
(Some of you know that’s kind of self-evident.)
You are a beautiful creation of God, and you as a human being that reflects his image, are worth more than the universe, but you are not him. You were made to worship and serve him and to give him glory. Also, I don’t really consider the god worth worshiping who has a problem remembering who he is. I’ll take the one who always has been, always is, and always will be.
On page 74, Tolle speaks of our common humanity and then in talking about how we perceive the ego in others as their identity says we not only forget our common humanity but also “the rootedness in the one Life that you share with each human being, your common divinity.”
Now I do believe there is something divine in human beings, but it is not by nature but gift. We do not have to be. God created us and gave us life as a gift and with that comes bearing his image. We are meant to reflect him. If we paused to think about that, it should strike us as awesome. What we are getting instead is the same lie used in the garden. “You shall be as God.”
It worked so well then, why not try it again? In fact, Tolle says the opposite of what I’ve just said on page 79 referring to our essential beingness, the I Am. I am a contingent being though. If I exist, I must be necessarily human, but my existence is contingent. It doesn’t have to be and the universe could make it just fine without me and God definitely could. What I have is a gift.
I must comment on page 81 when he says “This is because the recognition of the impermanence of all forms awakens you to the dimension of formless within yourself, that which is beyond death. Jesus called it “eternal life.”
No. Jesus called eternal life living in the Kingdom of God by the gift of his salvation forevermore. Only those who have been forgiven of their sins could have that and it would always be by gift from the creator who is distinct from us. It’s a shame Jesus must have been a terrible teacher. No one understood his message until these New Age teachers came along.
In speaking about discipline on page 104, Tolle says that you are to only want the moment with your child then. “In this way, you make room for Being. In that moment, if you are present, you are not a father or mother. You are the alertness, the stillness, the Presence that is listening, looking, touching, even speaking. You are the Being behind the doing.”
Friends. It’s simply getting to be more repetitive at this point as it’s simply the idea of identifying ourselves with Being again. We are not existence. Existence is not something we have necessarily for we are not necessary beings. We are contingent beings and if we exist, we exist for the glory of God and it is a gift from him to us.
On page 106, we get a more direct statement on the nature of God with Tolle saying “It has been said that ‘God is love’ but that is not absolutely correct. God is the One Life in and beyond the countless forms of life. Love implies duality: lover and beloved, subject and object. So love is the recognition of oneness in the world of duality. This is the birth of God into the world of form. Love makes the world less worldly, less dense, more transparent to the divine dimension, the light of consciousness itself.”
Classical apologists used “God is Love” to demonstrate the Trinity all the way back to Augustine. Tolle has made it something entirely different. One wonders though how there is a duality if all is one. Parmenides would have admitted no such thing in his monistic system.
Question: If all is one, then would that not eliminate love as how is the one subject and object if there is no distinction between anything truly?
On pages 132-133, we see more clues of the worldview as he equates the world with Gaia. This is a common name used to refer to the Earth as having some sort of consciousness of its own, a further indication of pantheism.
I refer the read to an earlier post with the quotation of Matthew 5:48. Note that on that same page, page 184, Tolle specifically says your true nature is one with the nature of God. I believe I have said enough though in response to such an assertion.
Now why do I think he could be panentheistic at times? He seems to talk of a God also who is progressing and undergoing change in these quotes and we will see more of this when we look at Tolle’s view of man in the book.
At this point, I simply say, Christians beware. Anyone who was an informed Christian when reading this should have had his red flags going up several times.