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May 18th, 2008

Did I Already Drink The Kool-Aid?

I wrote the following in response to an e-mail I received that included a “warning” about Eckhart Tolle. In my response below I included parts of the warning and then added my comments in the relevant spots. The warning I received will be in an blue.

From: Doug

Dear ***: I received your e-mail "warning" that you sent me regarding Eckhart Tolle. The "Crosswalk" warning isn't the first warning I have received, nor do I suspect it will be the last regarding Eckhart Tolle. About the only thing that did surprise me was that the "warning" didn't mention Oprah Winfrey as well. Since I am very aware of the mindset within the evangelical, fundamental Christian and messianic movements, the warnings are to be expected based upon the beliefs of both those groups. I could forward your warning to other members of our group if you like though several in the group are very comfortable with Tolle's teachings and in fact want to gather for an in-depth discussion of the principles taught in the book, The New Earth. Further, Kelly and I not only have The New Earth but also have The Power of Now, his first book, plus a four hour Tolle teaching DVD filmed in Scotland a few years ago and we intend to add more of his books and DVDs to our collection when possible. From March through to May, Kelly and I also set aside every Monday night for 10 weeks and watched every web broadcast on Oprah's web site. A different chapter of The New Earth was discussed by Oprah and Eckhart each week. We are in the process of downloading the broadcast from all 10 weeks and burning them onto DVDs so we can re-watch them whenever we want to.

Allow me to make a few comments regarding the "warning," parts of which I will insert into this email (warning is in blue and italicized).

Do you know anyone who is trying out the latest New Age teachings entitled "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle? Beware. This teaching stands in stark contrast to the truths of the Bible. As Christians it is vitally important for us to be grounded in truth so we don't inadvertently get swept up in the lies, and so that we can talk intelligently to those who are trying this stuff out.

I would agree that Tolle's teachings certainly are in stark contrast to fundamental Christianity’s interpretation of the Bible, though I would suggest that within fundamental Christianity we could find a hundred different topics in which fundamental Christians don't agree with each other so what is the "truth?" The person writing this warning wouldn't admit the following but the fact is, what she considers to be "truth" is simply her interpretation of the "truth." We could start with the "truth" of the "end times" and find variation after variation within fundamental Christianity, and some of those variations are as different as night and day. The truth is, when it comes to the Bible and biblical truth, no matter what it is that we believe, all of our beliefs are simply our interpretation of what the Bible says, our "truths" are simply our perception of truth and our interpretation and perception may be accurate or they may be inaccurate.

That said, Eckhart Tolle's overall spiritual views do differ highly from fundamental Christianity but setting that aside for the moment, I would suggest that the teachings in The New Earth line up very well with teachings in the Bible. On more than one occasion I have suggested that The New Earth is a fantastic commentary on some aspects of Romans 7.

I would very much like to see an intelligent discussion regarding Eckhart's teachings in The New Earth. The author of this e-mail just might find that she has bit off far more than she could chew. She also might find that the teachings fall very much within the realm of Christian mysticism but of course many fundamentalists will reject Christian mysticism as a valid expression of "Christianity."

The most dangerous theme I've discovered in this book so far is this notion that you don't have to weigh your current religious beliefs against this new age awakening. Let's look at what it teaches.

The Lie: Tolle teaches you can keep all your current religious beliefs but this will help you put them into proper perspective. Those elementary ideas are a step toward spiritual progress. But if you want real success in your spirituality's effectiveness, you have to make a leap into "true enlightenment."

I would agree that Tolle is not interested in changing your current religious beliefs and I would also agree that he believes that many of our current expressions of religion do not go far enough  and are relatively ineffectual. If instead of saying one must experience "true enlightenment" we changed it and said one must be born from above, would that make it more palatable? We could do that. It is semantics. We could also stand up and admit that most people who aren't Christian would probably rate the spiritual effectiveness of Christianity to be extremely low and many would admit that they really want nothing to do with Christianity based upon the spirituality being exhibited by a great many "Christians." Perhaps we do need to wake up and experience true enlightenment. Of course to fundamental Christianity, true enlightenment takes a very big back seat to being saved from burning in hell, something that I, of course, reject completely.

In true enlightenment you will discover that "the light of consciousness is all that is necessary" for a more fulfilling existence. Therefore, if Buddha works for you - great. If Hinduism works for you - great. If Jesus works for you - great. Tolle believes all these different avenues simply lead you to that first step toward awakening your consciousness.

I would agree with the statement that Tolle is very inclusive and he doesn't believe any one religion has the market captured when it comes to salvation and/or truth. I am not so sure that Tolle sees it as a first step but that again may be semantics. Of course the fundamental Christian is going be up in arms when Tolle suggests that "accepting Jesus" isn't the criteria everyone must meet to make it to "heaven" and they are going to suggest that based upon the Bible, it is clear that Tolles's view of the truth, is not the truth. There is however a major problem regarding the fundamental viewpoint, and that is the fact that many Christians are much more aligned with Tolle's position than they are with the fundamentalist's view. Of course that is easily solved with fundamentalism... you simply declare those who support Tolle's view as heretics, false teachers, etc. and ban them from your group/church.

According to Tolle, Jesus is basic. He was the light of your basic beliefs. But ultimately you, yourself, are the way... the truth and the life. No one comes to spiritual awakening but by reaching inside themselves and leaping to a higher consciousness of being.

Again, this comes down to the interpretation of Jesus' teachings. The author of the e-mail writes the above in order to discredit Tolle but it seems to me that again those within Christian mysticism would actually agree with the view that we need to go deep inside ourselves in order to ascend to a higher consciousness of being. What would be interesting would be to ponder and experience this higher consciousness of being.

The Truth: In John 14:6 Jesus gives us the truth which clearly refutes the notion that one can get to God through many avenues, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

As plain as the writer of this e-mail warning thinks John 14:6  is (again remember that this is her interpretation) it is not so plain to those outside of fundamentalism. Many Christians mystics and many Christian biblical scholars such as Marcus Borg, in my opinion, would not agree with this writer. They would certainly interpret John 14:6 very differently.

The Lie: Throughout the book, Tolle walks right beside Christian beliefs and uses just enough Christian lingo to make his writing appear, especially to the ungrounded Christian, truthful. For example, look at how he talks about sin:

"Sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target"... Yes! yes! I've heard this preached about at my church, a person might excitedly think. But wait, look at how he finishes this sentence:

"Sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence."

I found this to be a very interesting comment, especially since I discussed this today. The Hebrew word for sin definitely means to miss  the mark. What is the mark? Could it possibly be that it is exactly what Tolle said, that missing the mark means to miss the point of human existence. To help clarify this we could ask --- what is this mark that we are missing? What if the mark is the image of God and not only is it the "mark," but it is also point of human existence --- we are here to manifest God in his fullness through us, to bear his image and to sin is to do anything that would miss that mark. Personally, I think Tolle's definition is terrific. I don't think it needs to be changed at all.

In other words, this book has been promoted as the guide by which you can find your purpose, therefore not missing the point of your existence. So, if you ascribe to this teaching and find the point of your existence, then you will not be a sinner.

If I reach a place where I no longer miss the mark, where I constantly manifest the image of God, would I not cease to sin? Can I not envision reaching a spiritual place where I no longer sin and will not be a sinner anymore --- or am I going to spend eternity as a sinner?

Dictionary.com has not caught up to this new definition of sin. It still defines sin this way:

1. transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.

2. any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.

The Truth: A person who doesn't consider themselves a sinner, is in no need of a Savior. Do you see the slippery slope here?

Again we are back to the fundamentalist defining for all of us  what it means to sin, to need a Saviour and what salvation actually means. Is it an escape from a place of eternal torment as fundamentalists believe or is it in fact, the achievement of wholeness in body, soul and spirit? Is it eternal fire insurance or might it be wholeness, completeness, escaping the bondages we all succumb to in our lives, being healed physically, emotionally and mentally and so on?

Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

The truth is sin is that which separates us from God. But God has made a way for us to be forgiven of our sin through Jesus Christ... the one and only WAY.

Tolle's book is so popular right now because people want to find their way - they want to live a life that matters. They want to feel like they have a handle on their spirituality. The problem is "A New Earth" is false teaching that will not stand the test of time. It will fall apart at the seams when life strains against it, and quite honestly, Tolle paves a quick road to eternal separation from God.

I suppose only time will tell if Tolle's teachings stand the test of time. Actually I would say to anyone that Tolle's teachings have already stood the test of time. They truly are ancient teachings. And... I doubt very much that it will fall apart at the seams when life strains against it. In fact, I would suggest those who are applying Tolle's teachings will do the very opposite. Tolle's teachings are equipping us to fulfill the reasons why we are here.

***, for Kelly and I, the final statement of this e-mail sums up our rejection of it. This person and fundamentalism, be it Christian or Messianic, have created a vengeful God who violates the "Spirit" of His own laws and contradicts the teachings of Jesus regarding forgiveness and mercy. The fundamentalist takes the "English" translation of some verses, creating this God who violates His own laws, all the while ignoring culture and context as well as the original languages and ends up with a God who fails and whose will is thwarted enormously since God is willing that none should perish. I think we need a much bigger and better God than that.

Rather than get into detail about this ( I did this enough for now over the past couple of years), Kelly and I are very comfortable with simply saying that our views are simply that --- OUR views --- and if you have a different view, so be it. If you don't want to listen to Tolle, don't do it. It is obviously not for you. That's okay but as for us, we are pushing on in this journey.

So I close with this --- for some, it will appear that the warnings we have received have arrived too late --- we have already drank the Kool Aid. I suppose that could be true. For Kelly and I however, the teachings of Eckhart Tolle have given us hope and encouragement that we just might actually be able to live and think like Jesus and in so doing, live at a higher level of transformation than we have currently experienced. Some won't get it, some won't agree but we are very comfortable with Tolle's core teachings expressed in The New Earth, and if some need it, we are happy to suggest that those teachings very much are supported by the Bible, though that fact is probably far less important to us than it may be to others.

Blessings, shalom, namaste

Doug Trudell

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