Today, we’re going to look at the psychology presented in “A New Earth.” Now there are many problems I see in that while he claims in one part that he is against moral relativism, he seems to affirm a viewpoint of moral relativism in others. Let’s see where he says he is against it.
On page 70 we read “The Catholic and other churches are actually correct when they identify relativism, the belief that there is no absolute truth to guide human behavior, as one of the evils of our times;.”
Yet on pages 110-11 we read:
You might say “What a dreadful day,” without realizing that the cold, the wind, and the rain or whatever conditions you react to are not dreadful. They are as they are. What is dreadful is your reaction, your inner resistance to it, and the emotion that is created by that resistance. In Shakespeare’s words, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Here, it seems a relativism is being espoused, especially with the quote.
And on page 196 we read:
The deeper interconnectedness of all things and events implies that the mental labels of “good” and “bad” are ultimately illsuory.
So which is it?
Interestingly, one idea of his ethics astounds me in finding inner purpose. On page 263, he sets up an imaginary dialogue with someone on finding the purpose in their life. When he is asked to help find someone’s life purpose, he replies:
Your purpose is to sit here and talk to me, because that’s where you and that’s what you are doing. Until you get up and do something else. Then that becomes your purpose.
It would seem then that whatever you do is your final cause as it were. So, if I was really struggling with lust and went out and raped a girl, my purpose would be to rape a girl at the time?
Overall though, readers might be surprised to hear that I do find much that is helpful in the psychology given. I do believe we focus too much on things. I do believe we are too materialistic. I do believe we should live life in the Now. (So did C.S. Lewis.) I do believe there is great help in breathing exercises and in meditation.
My problem is the baggage that comes with it.
For instance, my roommate did a presentation at our church today on Yoga. I thought he did excellent and pointed out that it’s just incredibly difficult to separate yoga from the spiritual baggage that comes with it. So what’s a Christian to do? Several other exercise programs that can bring about just as much physical benefit as Yoga.
So what about Tolle’s psychology?
When he talks about what we tell ourselves, you can find the same stuff and better from a Christian perspective in Gary Habermas. I urge the reader to go to his website and listen to his lectures on emotional doubt. He is quite good at telling ways to get your emotions under control and would recommend also the book “Telling Yourself The Truth.”
In fact, you can find much of the good ethical teachings in the philosophers of the past. Go read the stoics. Go read Plato. Go read Aristotle. Tolle is not really saying anything new in the area of psychology. Again, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff with the philosophers also, but when you get to them, I find there is a lot less chaff and a lot more wheat. (And I would encourage the Christians that read to get familiar with philosophical thought anyway.)
I believe that is the danger in fact in Tolle! He has a lot of good stuff and when you take that in but take in the worldview as well, you get the bad. It is like drinking a glass of water, which is good, but then drinking arsenic in it also. If you take in the water, it is quite likely you will also take in the arsenic. There are better and safer sources and they don’t come with the worldview of Tolle that seems to be a conceptual disaster at the moment.
There isn’t much to say of the afterlife. I know where I wish to go, and we’ll go there tomorrow.